Drs Louise Imlay-Gillespie and Nathan Kesteven

The past 18 months have been testing for many volunteer organisations. Co-Chairs Nathan Kesteven and Louise Imlay-Gillespie report on NorDocs activities over the last financial year.

NorDocs, unlike many other charities, has weathered the COVID-19 storm relatively well. Much of this success can be attributed to our restructuring as a virtual organisation several years ago. As a result, face-to-face restrictions did not impact greatly on our day to day activities.

NorDocs was also the recipient of financial grants from the government as part of the COVID-19 relief package for businesses and charities. COVID-19 infections escalated rapidly in December 2021 and general practitioners assumed responsibility for community based care for mild to moderately severe cases. After discussions with the Northern NSW LHD some of the COVID-19 funding was used to set up support for local GPs by implementing the online coordination software, Basecamp.

Our core activities of education and communication were largely revenue neutral for the year and so with the help of the government’s grants the organisation made a small profit in the last financial year.

While it has been disappointing that we have not been able to host any live events ourselves, we have run ten webinars on Zoom over the course of the year. These online meetings provided an opportunity for local specialists to bring the latest in their fields to North Coast GPs and to outline any new services that have become available in the area.

The monthly meetings are usually case-based in order to highlight areas of management that have changed. They provide members with an opportunity to post questions regarding local clinical management. Dr Peter Silberberg has been the medical facilitator for these meetings and the series will continue in the first half of 2022. The 9 March meeting focuses on the subject of Autism Spectrum Disorder.

The meetings are broadcast at 7.30 pm on the second Wednesday of the month and are recorded. This year we have archived the meetings on our new YouTube channel. The recordings can be found by searching YouTube for “NorDocs Australia” or by clicking the YouTube link on the NorDocs home page.

NorDocs has provided logistical services to the Northern NSW LHD for their education programs. In the past year the Departments of Anaesthetics, Orthopaedics  and Accident and Emergency have run courses for their members. Upcoming meetings are advertised internally through the various departments but can also be found via the Norshop link on the website.

NorDocs Magazine is published quarterly (online and in print version) and informs members and the public of the medical events on the North Coast, and more. Our irregular newsletter alerts subscribers to new articles on the website. Notifications of upcoming meetings are also posted there. The newsletter and magazine try to live up to our motto, “NorDocs. Keeping the finger on the North Coast’s pulse”.

The magazine also aims to be the journal of record for North Coast medical matters. In the last year it has paid tribute to prominent members who have been recognised by the wider community.

Dr Chris Ingall has interviewed two well known North Coast specialists on their impending retirement. Dr Austin Curtin, AM, has wound back his surgical practice after more than 30 years service to the North Coast and anaesthetist, Dr Brian Pezzutti, has stepped down as Chairman of the Local Health District after his many years of service to the community in health administration, politics and the military.

We have also reported the sad passing of Dr Neil Thompson. Neil was the Richmond’s valley first orthopaedic surgeon and in retirement chronicled the first 120 years of medical practitioners in our area. Proceeds from his book, Sawbones, Saddle Burns & Soothing Balms, are directed to NorDocs.

The great work of Linda Ward, our chief executive officer, should be acknowledged. Linda’s management and financial skills have allowed the organisation to get through these difficult past two years and have put us in a great position to carry out the goals of the organisation for the next few years. Her efforts are greatly appreciated.

Retiring from the Board this year are Susan Tyler-Freer, Co-chair Louise Imlay-Gillespie and Secretary, David Guest. The Board is seeking new members to guide the direction of the organisation in the coming years as we emerge from the restrictions of the COVID-19 pandemic and resume normal activities again.

We are hoping to hold a face-to-face meeting later this year. The format is yet to be determined but there is interest in using the same approach as the “Unconferences” that were held in 2018 and 2019. These were a great opportunity, away from the pressures of clinical practice, at least for a few hours, for us all to socialise and come together as a medical fraternity.

We hope you can join us for the next meeting.

Kind regards, and best wishes for 2022.