The Blugibbon Emergency Medicine team, along with some of our Locum Doctors, recently had some unforgettable experiences in the Top End. We had the pleasure of adventuring to Darwin, Palmerston and Katherine and met with each hospital’s Emergency Department team along with enjoying what the locations had to offer over two days. First up was Katherine.
We were overwhelmed by the hospitality of the people in the hospital being so
friendly and welcoming but also many of the nearby local attractions.
WHAT IS THE TEAM LIKE?
The ED team organised an induction to go over the basics of how things work in Katherine Hospital, even though I arrived on a public holiday weekend. This was very useful.
A lot of locum Doctors and nurses rotate through here so they will be used to getting plenty of questions. Katherine is a very interesting place to work, particularly if you have an interest in Indigenous health or tropical medicine.
The team is small and works well together. Most of the nurses are very experienced. During the day, there is supervision from a FACEM, rural GP, or GP anaesthetist. Overnight there is one doctor covering ED and the wards, with a specialist on call. The team is social and there are always activities being planned.
Surrounded by palm trees and a calming feel to the air we stepped inside the hospital. We were greeted by the ED front desk who quickly recognised we were from Blugibbon and directed us to the department.
The team at Katherine were super helpful and friendly, as well as the FACEM in charge, who clearly takes pride in all of her team and department, from the reception staff to Doctors, Nurses and support team.
TELL US ABOUT THE SETUP OF THE HOSPITAL AND SUPPORT FOR A LOCUM DOCTOR IN KATHERINE?
Services within the hospital are limited, so a lot of patients requiring specialist care are transferred by CareFlight to the Royal Darwin Hospital. Through the week there are often specialists visiting clinics.
There is a local Indigenous health service in town which has several outpatient services.
ED sees approximately 18,000 people per year (40-60 per day), with eight beds (including 3 resuscitation beds), a fast-track area and a COVID-19 pod.
There is 24/7 ambulance support provided by St John’s Ambulance, 24/7 medical and registered nurse coverage, but no high dependency or intensive care unit. They do have a CT, general x-ray and ultrasound, point of care testing in the ED, as well as onsite pathology with on-call.
There is a lovely little cafe on site and as expected, the staff were superb. Ask for Michelle, she is an absolute diamond. Her salads were tremendous.
The department is equipped enough for the high acuity of Emergency presentations they see on a daily basis. On an average day you would see around 10 patients, these mostly being indigenous with chronic care needs. A passion for indigenous health is considered a must.
We were lucky enough to meet the team behind the department, Carolyn Adams, Manager of Medical Administration and the Director of Medical
Services, both reinforcing our already high opinion of Katherine Hospital.
WHAT DOES THE TRAVEL AND ACCOMMODATION LOOK LIKE FOR A LOCUM DOCTOR IN KATHERINE?
After flying from Darwin, it is a three-hour drive. I stayed one night in Darwin in order to break up the trip (and also got to meet Danni and Joe from Blugibbon for Frothy Friday at The Mindil Beach Infinity Bar).
In Katherine, I stayed at the Pine Tree Motel which is in town (a five minute drive from the hospital), cooking facilities are limited to a BBQ and microwave, but breakfast is provided every day. It is very clean and the staff are great. For longer term placements most people stay in the hospital accommodation, which has a pool and a social club.
The hospital is an accredited six-bed non-specialist medical, diagnostic and treatment facility servicing the Katherine region and surrounding remote areas, covering an area of approximately 340,000 km2 between the Western Australia and Queensland borders, and extending as far as Dunmarra to the south, and Pine Creek to the north.
The population is around 19,000 people with an annual tourist presence of more than 500,000 visitor nights.
We drove from Darwin to Katherine, making sure to top up our fuel as there is not much to see on the way apart from the roadkill. We suggest being mindful of your speed to try and protect yourself and these precious animals.
ANY LOCAL’S INSIDE INFORMATION TO SHARE? BEST SWIMMING SPOTS? LOOKOUTS? BIKE OR WALK TRAILS?
The best time to visit is during the dry season (May – October). Nitmiluk Gorge is amazing – you can go hiking, mountain biking, or take a boat or canoe trip. At some times of the year, you will see freshwater crocs.
Katherine hot springs are just a few minutes from town and a great place for a swim. If you have a little longer, visit Mataranka hot springs and bitter springs, about a one hour drive south.
Litchfield National Park, which is between Katherine and Darwin, is great for a day or overnight trip. If you are visiting in the dry season, I recommend spending a few days in Kakadu national park, which is a great place to see ancient artworks and to go looking for crocodiles.
Mataranka & Bitter springs (Inside Elsey National Park) is an absolute must to visit, about a one hour drive from Katherine. Swim in the crystal blue clear waters of the thermal pools and pack your floats or noodles!
Before your shift starts in Katherine, we concur that you have to visit the hot springs. It’s one of the most amazing natural thermal springs we have ever seen, just beautiful.
On one morning before a meeting, we took a 30 minute helicopter ride over the Katherine Gorge, arriving there at 8am and being greeted by the legendary Pilot Josh.
Josh has been there for two years, previously living on the Sunshine Coast. You could tell by the way Josh’s eyes sparkled that he had a huge passion for helicopters, his job and his cute dog Jake who also made it even more special!
35 minutes of pure paradise left us speechless, flying over four different waterfalls, Katherine Gorge and the most beautiful scenery. Josh gave us so much insight into Katherine’s different climate with the wet and dry seasons, crocodiles in the area, local buffalos, and the 67km hike that takes place over three days.
If you want to take your very own helicopter flight across Katherine we have teamed up with Heli Spirit to offer our Locum Doctors 10% off their ride! You can call Josh direct and mention Blugibbon before booking.
TOWN AMENITIES? SHOPS, COFFEE TIPS FOR A LOCUM DOCTOR IN KATHERINE?
The best coffee in town can be found at Maidens Lane, which also has great cakes and brunch options. There is also a caravan behind K-Mart called Black Russian which serves incredible toasties.
Pop Rocket is located at the hot springs for post swim coffee and food. Try Kumbidgee or Bhoj Indian restaurant for dinner. For shopping, Mimi Aboriginal Art & Craft sells beautiful local artworks and gifts.
If you are looking for that perfect coffee fix, Coffee Club in town is just fab.
There is an arcade full of shops at Katherine Central and a quirky pop-up boutique clothes shop that has the best dresses and kaftans Australia has to offer. They gave our Dannielle’s Camilla dress a run for its money. Ask for Bev and she will look after you as well as give you much local insight into the area.
For accommodation, Katherine Motel offers a discount for Doctors, a great place to stay. Prem and his wife are the best hosts. The accommodation is clean with all the amenities for a comfortable night’s sleep. They have an Indian restaurant on site too that serves up authentic Indian food at good prices.
WOULD YOU GO BACK TO KATHERINE AS A LOCUM DOCTOR?
I’d love to go back! It is a cool place to work, with a varied workload of presentations that you are unlikely to see elsewhere in Australia.
To meet and serve our clients in the region combined with ticking off some bucket-list goals was a once in a lifetime experience.
The Northern Territory is a beautiful and sacred place, and we will certainly return. It is no surprise the area is so popular amongst Doctors that live, work and travel here in Australia.