"As a family we are too tired to fight this madness any longer." Dr Christoph Ahrens
Time is running out for well-respected local orthopaedic surgeon, Christoph Arens and his family. The Southern NSW Local Health District has confirmed that it has advertised Dr Ahrens’ position and the News Weekly understands that the Local Health District has issued a contract to Dr Ahrens only until December.
For nine years local surgeon, Christoph Ahrens has practised in Bega and Pambula hospitals performing knee and hip replacements. For many of the latter years he has been embroiled in arguments about his overseas qualifications. Now it seems Dr Ahrens and his family face making a new start, most likely overseas. He told the News Weekly: “As a family we are too tired to fight this madness any longer.”
Dr Ahrens has written to GPs in the Southern NSW Local Health District to inform that that his time as an orthopaedic surgeon in the area was very likely to come to an end in December. Dr Ahrens has said that he will continue to work as usual until the very end, both operating and consulting. However new patients will go onto a pooled public waiting list and will most likely have their surgery by another surgeon.
Originally from Germany, Dr Ahrens also practised in the UK and his experience prior to coming to Australia included training registrars in the UK and serving as an honorary consultant to Oxford University medical school.
For 13 years Bega has been classed as an area of need and nine years ago Dr Ahrens was encouraged to take up a post in Bega where he was contracted as a Visiting Medical Officer.
Dr Ahrens has always maintained that there was never any suggestion that he would have to take further exams to be allowed to continue to practice but inexplicably the rules that allowed him to practice with his overseas qualifications changed, and he was told that he needed to study and sit the Royal Australian College of Surgeons examination.
With a large workload, a family and a mortgage, taking time off to study for an exam which included disciplines such as spinal surgery, something that will not be performed in Bega, not even in the new hospital, was unrealistic, Dr Ahrens said.
The well respected consultant and surgeon had a number of supporters including member for Bega, Andrew Constance and member for Eden-Monaro, Peter Hendy.
Mr Hendy told the News Weekly: “This will be a disappointment for the local community if Dr Ahrens is unable to continue his present services.”
When Dr Ahrens was originally appointed, Bega was classed as an area of need with a shortage of doctors. A spokesman for the SNSW Local Health District said: “Southern NSW Local Health District has advertised for an orthopaedic surgeon in the Bega Valley. The incumbent, Dr Christoph Ahrens, has occupied a position which has an Area of Need (AON) status and his registration as a specialist is on this basis. The position’s special AON status expires in June 2014 and the SNSWLHD is required to advertise the position.”
But Dr Ahrens said that there was no requirement to advertise until three months before the end of the certificate. He said that in doing so the Local Health District had put him under more pressure.
The Local Health District spokesman said: “The Local Health District acknowledges and appreciates the devoted service that Dr Ahrens has provided to the local Bega and South Coast communities and the support expressed by his colleagues.”
Dr Ahrens said that once he became aware that the area of need status for his position would end on June 30, 2014 it gave him no choice but to attempt to prepare and pass the exam. He said that he notified both the Royal Australian College of Surgeons and Australian Orthopaedic Association of his intention to sit the exam at the next available time in April/May 2014.
“I thought about ways to temporary reduce my workload to be able to study but still be able to pay the bills in my single doctor surgery, pay the mortgage,” he said.
But now that the Local Health District has advertised his post and issued a contract only until December which doesn’t give him the chance to sit the exam before he is out of work.
Dr Ahrens said that the Medical Staff Council in Bega asked the Local Health District to hold off advertising until end of 2014 to give him two chances to pass the exam and stay but to no avail.