Last Thursday over 200 people made the effort to attend the Community Meeting, held at the Braidwood Services Club, to express their support for Dr Sutherland, following the news the previous Monday that his contract through RaRMS (Rural and Remote Medical Services), to practice at the Braidwood Medical Centre, would be terminated.
The community was only given very short notice about the meeting, however Dr Ian Cameron, the CEO from RaRMS and Mr Hatton from the RaRMS Board did attend. The Community meeting was organised to facilitate a better community understanding of the issues surrounding the RaRMS announcement, to terminate Dr Sutherland's contract.
Mr Forbes Gordon and Mrs Cheryl Raper chaired the meeting and encouraged the meeting to "find a way forward" from this situation.
The role up at the meeting demonstrated the overwhelming support Dr Sutherland has in the community, close to 200 people who attended the meeting at short notice (where the town itself has a population of 1100) and by the 700 signatures on the petitions.
Dr Cameron addressed the meeting outlining the function of RaRMS, and the reasons behind RaRMS decision. The audience had many questions re this decision, and suggestions that the "mediation" methods did not take into account the impact this decision would have on the Braidwood Community, was expressed loudly and often.
It was noted as a positive sign towards a possible solution, that the offer RaRMS had made some time ago - about letting the Centre establish its own management system - remains a possibility and that RaRMS would have no objections in this regard.
After many questions from the body of the meeting to Dr Cameron, a motion was proposed by Paul Cockram (not in his capacity as Deputy Mayor of Palerang Council), was passed and supported by all who were present.
The motion would allow the uninterrupted continuation of medical services by all current GPs at the Centre, for at least six months, while dual processes take place:
Firstly, the community explores the available long-term options for the future management of the Centre which includes greater community participation in establishing clear processes and openness in decision making at the core of its administrations, and the ability to support individuals with respect and in a timely manner in all its communications, and;
Secondly, in the meantime, an independent mediator, who is acceptable to all parties, be appointed to attempt to resolve the problems in the Centre. This step is essential as the records of the proceedings including records of the cooperation or otherwise of any of the participants would assist in identifying and addressing the relationship issues indicated as being the reason for the Board’s decision.
It would expect RaRMS, the GPs and staff to participate in the process with all bringing in expertise our community might not have.
In summary, the meeting was confident that the Board would find the community’s proposal acceptable as one of the harmonious ways to finding a long term solution to our mutual satisfaction so that we can all start a new chapter in readiness for the opening of the new Medical Centre.
The meeting believes that simply placing the burden and costs associated with setting up a practice independently on Dr Sutherland, even if RaRMS offered assistance in this regard, as unacceptable, illogical and unfair by any measure.
Further, it had been mentioned that the Medical Centre was running at a loss, The meeting could not see how removing Dr Sutherland, with all his patients following him, would remedy this situation
Dr Cameron agreed to relay our community concerns to the RaRMS Board early this week.