North Queensland now feels like home to Sarina Senior Medical Officer Dr Keith Walsh. Keith is part way through a 12-month contract at Sarina Hospital where he says his skills in emergency medicine get regular use.
“In a rural community get you plenty of farm injuries and most of these patients are very stoic. They’ve been hurt rolling a quad bike, had bales of hay fall on them or been kicked by cattle, and they just rock up to ED with horrendous injuries,” he said.
“The other day there was a man who had an unfortunate incident with a circular saw, so my emergency training always kicks in and it’s good to keep my skills up.”
Keith describes Sarina Hospital as a lovely little hospital with great team spirit.
“I was working at Proserpine Hospital as a PHO and Sarina Hospital’s Emergency Department Senior Medical Officer Dr Thian Barnard asked if I’d cover 12 months of maternity leave, so I jumped at the opportunity,” he said.
“Sarina is brilliant, everyone was welcoming when I arrived, and I’ve been accepted with open arms.
“I’m really enjoying my time here. Everyone is very passionate and they work really hard to provide excellent care to the local community,” he said.
Keith is originally from County Mayo on the west of Ireland but grew up in Spain before attending medical school at the University of Bristol in England.
He moved to Australia in 2018 after completing his intern and Junior House Officer years in the UK’s National Health Service and has worked in Queensland since then.
After a year as a Senior House Officer in Townsville University Hospital’s emergency department he spent two years at Proserpine Hospital followed by six months as an emergency registrar at Ipswich Hospital before returning to Proserpine.
Mackay HHS is now sponsoring his application for permanent residency and it he is successful he hopes to join the Australian College of Rural and Remote Medicine and join the pathway to become a rural generalist.
Keith is planning to do his advanced skills in anaesthetics at Mackay Base Hospital in 2023.
“My passion lies with emergency medicine and having a specialist skill such as anaesthetics increases services you can provide to rural hospitals, such as facilitate visiting surgeons so people don’t have to travel to bigger centres,” he said.
Keith said working in Australia remained a rite of passage for UK doctors.“The NHS is a brutal place to work in the sense it is relentlessly busy, and a large number of UK doctors continue to take one or two years out to travel to Australia and New Zealand.
“The systems are similar and our qualifications are recognised, plus the weather is so much better over here! Some stay and some go back, and I’ve fallen into the stay category.
“Proserpine was also wonderful. It’s a great hospital with passionate doctors and you get to live in the Whitsundays. To wake up in the morning and see the islands is amazing.”
“Sarina and Mackay also have a lot of natural beauty and I’m privileged to have the option to move here and work in a health service like Mackay which has gone out of its way to support me to stay here on a long-term basis.”
Keith enjoys getting to know a community and providing more continuity of care for people and families he sees more than once.
“In Sarina you get to know patients some more, that’s the benefit of being in a smaller community. Even now I’ll see the same people again or meet their mother or brother of someone I have cared for.
“Even if I go to Woolworths to get some lunch I’ll have people wave at me and say hello.
“Sometimes that can be seen as a bad thing but in a big city no one knows you. In a place like Sarina you become part of the community and that’s one of the thing I like about rural generalism.”