READY TO GO: Dr Eugene Wong, the new director of medial services for Central Queensland Hospital and Health Services, Central Highlands.
READY TO GO: Dr Eugene Wong, the new director of medial services for Central Queensland Hospital and Health Services, Central Highlands. Taylor Battersby

New director is people focused

DETERMINED to improve health outcomes in the Central Highlands, the new Director of Medical Services for Central Highlands District of the Central Queensland Hospital and Health Service (CQHHS) Eugene Wong has come to the region armed with impressive credentials and a large dose of compassion.

Dr Wong, who moved to Emerald at the end of January, said this week he had been keen to return to the public health sector as a rural generalist doctor, a role which included working with ward inpatients, in the emergency department, and anaesthetics.

"I wanted to have the chance to influence the health system and help build up a health service,” he said.

Dr Wong has worked as an aeromedical retrieval doctor and a rural-remote GP with the Royal Flying Doctor Service, visiting regions around Cairns, the Torres Strait and Cape York.

"As a retrieval doctor, we'd often go out to sick patients in Aboriginal communities, stabilise the patient and bring them back in the plane.”

He said since starting in the Central Highlands, he has focused on understanding the hospital, its staff and patients' needs.

"We've been brainstorming a lot of ideas about how we can avoid patients having to travel all the way to Rockhampton or Brisbane for care.”

As part of his plan to support current staff, Dr Wong stressed the need to target recruitment and boost the numbers of doctors and nurses in regional areas - currently Emerald Hospital has 11 full-time equivalent senior doctors with nine in Emerald, one in Springsure and one in Blackwater.

"If we can boost staff numbers people don't have to work as hard and as long as they have been for many years which is better for patient care.”

As well as turning his attention to the efficiency of the hospital and its standards, Dr Wong wants to focus on providing "compassion and care for patients and improving their experience of our service”.

He said it was vital to hear feedback from hospital patients about their needs and concerns.

"I want to talk to our patients to find out what did or didn't go well for them.

"Historically doctors as a profession haven't always been so good at putting patient experience first and I'm trying to shift that culture.

"I think we often forget that our job is not just treating the illness, we're caring for people.”

Dr Wong said he believed part of a person's 'healing' included the relationships they were able to build with doctors and nurses.

"Build relationships with the people you're serving - rather than just giving them a pill - and I find then that connection helps the person to heal.

"I personally believe this patient focus will improve health outcomes in the region.

"People's health depends on so many different things and if patients don't have a good experience of healthcare they won't come to see us or they'll come and not engage or they won't trust what we're offering.

"And that means we won't make any impact. If patients believe in us and trust in us and come when they need to then the community's health as whole will improve.”

Dr Wong said that while the Central Highlands mental health team did a great job, he believed mental health services in the region needed more support to meet a growing demand.

He said he's looking forward to working with Woorabinda Aboriginal Shire Council and developing the services in areas including Springsure and Blackwater.

He is also keen to increase paediatrics and cardiology services - including attracting more visiting specialists to the area - for the growing community of the Central Highlands which he said would have an "exploding population of kids” over the next 10 years.

"CQ also has an ageing population and the health services for older people could do with some work. I want to better support our staff in their care for elderly people.”

Dr Wong said he was grateful to the Hospital and Health Service's chairperson Cr Paul Bell as well as the "dynamic” Central Highlands administration team including GM Eddie Gacitua and Director of Nursing Claire Letts.