Doctors Don Radford and Deirdre Little
Doctors Don Radford and Deirdre Little

Stay strong in fight to keep health services: retiring Drs

Retiring local doctors Don Radford and Deirdre Little have urged the community to be vigilant against a public hospital culture that is sometimes more responsive to economics.

They have also expressed concern that two doctors from their Bellingen practice were discouraged from applying to provide care for patients admitted to hospital.

This is their letter:

Our years in General Practice in Bellingen are coming to an end. It was a privilege to serve in a place and among people of such diverse interests and of such life and commitment. We have loved a town ready and able to rally together whenever community strength is needed.

COVID was such a time. Bushfires and floods were such times. Safeguarding the district's hospital and its after hours and emergency service were also such times. With effect. The town rejoiced in these successes, particularly the latter. Unfortunately, however, our hospital service will need ongoing vigilance and strong protection always.

It was an honour to practice obstetrics in the same hospital, the same labour ward as saw the birth of the Sara quads; to do anaesthetics and ward rounds in the same corridors walked by the great Dr George Hewitt. Even now as I look down through the hospital windows I remember the mothers in labour who paced the hospital grounds under his trees and their midwives waving over the balcony to call them back in.

The whole hospital knew when someone was in labour. The first newborn cry could brighten those corridors and lift even the tiredest and the sickest. We are old enough to remember the dormitory style medical wards, real bells, kitchens cooking and the paediatric ward's rocking horse and to have cared for second and third generations in our almost 37 years here.

Percy and Betty Sara became parents of quads in 1950 when Judith, Phillip, Mark and Alison were born over 50 hours in Bellingen Hospital, NSW.
Percy and Betty Sara became parents of quads in 1950 when Judith, Phillip, Mark and Alison were born over 50 hours in Bellingen Hospital, NSW.


We have enjoyed working with professional, kind and cheerful nurses in a hospital proud of its standards and morale. It is such a terrific hospital. We have enjoyed working in a solid general practice in a team honouring the traditions of home visits and after hours care, and the commitment to bulk billing.

However, supporting us as well as the town, we have most deeply appreciated and enjoyed working beside patient, kind, watchful and long serving staff, mindful and respectful of each individual patient and keeping us on track, though less successful in keeping us on time. They will forever have our love and respect.

As we farewell our patients we are grateful and feel gifted for having known each one of you and for our roles in each others' families, for the journey and for those precious moments. We wish you and your families all the very best.

Concerns for ongoing services

On a final note, though commencing retirement, we are concerned for the ongoing provision of after-hours care. Our valley is often isolated, with remote populations and unique needs and many not having cars for transport to Coffs Harbour.

While Don and I hope to continue contributing to this essential service, we are concerned. Two doctors from our practice were recently thwarted from applying to provide care for patients admitted to hospital. Diminishing doctors means diminishing hospital service. There have been many attempts and tactics in the past to reduce the hospital service, as the Bellingen Health Action Group well knows.

Starving the hospital of visiting medical doctors - employing locums and signing up only temporary registrars - could be another. For those snake bites and funnel-web bites, for sickness at night and weekends the town might expect these needs to be recognised. We hope those the hospital serves will not need to continually revisit the barricades to maintain their services and care.

On that note we farewell general practice, but encourage vigilance and wisdom in a public hospital culture sometimes more responsive to economics but clouded and less appreciative of the needs of the community. We have every confidence this community will rise to whatever challenges it may face in the future.

Dr. Don Radford and Dr. Deirdre Little