Feature

Australia’s Department of Home Affairs at last has a new Chief Medical Officer


Doug Hendrie


19/07/2018 2:37:23 PM

The Department of Home Affairs has appointed a rural GP as its new Chief Medical Officer and Surgeon General.

News teaser
Dr Parbodh Gogna (centre) is the new Chief Medical Officer for the Department of Home Affairs.

Dr Parbodh Gogna was appointed in May and took up his position on Monday last week, following the resignation of Dr John Brayley in October last year.
 
The appointment closes a ten-month period in which there was an interim non-doctor in the role, aided by medical officers.
 
In his first interview in the role, Dr Gogna told newsGP he was looking forward to a varied set of challenges.
 
‘People think everything we do is synonymous with detention. It’s not. It’s everything from counter-radicalisation to returned foreign fighters to making sure our border staff are fit and healthy,’ he said.
 
‘[Treatment of people in detention] is a very small part of a day-to-day operation,’ he said.
 
‘[But] what we’ll be doing is taking an approach of quality and safety, within the frameworks we have. Obviously I don’t set the policy agenda.’
 
The high-profile position often attracts media attention, especially when offshore asylum seekers need medical or palliative care, as in the recent case of a Hazara father dying of lung cancer.
 
‘We may not provide treatment in Australia, but we make sure treatment we provide in other countries is at a high standard. My remit is to provide safe and quality healthcare and make sure that translates to the individuals and facilities we engage,’ Dr Gogna said.
 
Dr Gogna – who prefers to be called ‘Gog’ – was born in the UK and did his training as a GP there. He came to Australia in 1997 and worked as a rural doctor in a small wheatbelt town in Western Australia for eight years.
 
He has Fellowships with both the RACGP and the Australian College of Rural and Remote Medicine (ACCRM), and an MBA.
 
‘The [RACGP and ACRRM] are very important to me,’ he said.
 
In his subsequent career, Dr Gogna has often taken up rural, remote or dangerous roles.
 
As a reservist medical officer for the Australian Army, Dr Gogna was deployed overseas and worked in mass casualty situations in Afghanistan.
From 2012–14, he worked as the medical director of International Health and Medical Services on Christmas Island, a company contracted to provide healthcare for people in immigration detention.
 
‘I was always intrigued by Christmas Island. Soon after I arrived, there were significant mass casualties. That was my first exposure. It was tragic, what happened. We worked very closely with the Indian Ocean Territories Health Service. There are people who if we didn’t intubate them, they wouldn’t be walking around now,’ he told newsGP.
 
‘We gave the best [care] that Australia had to offer.’
 
From 2014 he was the medical superintendent of the Capricorn Coast Hospital and Health Service in Yeppoon, Queensland.
 
There, he and his staff worked to deal the aftermath of Cyclone Marcia, a Category 5 cyclone that struck in 2015.
 
‘There weren’t too many injured straight away, because people were well prepared. But [more came afterwards] when people get their combat thongs on and chainsaws out, when 80-year-olds get up on the roof to clear branches. And there was the psychological impact. I remember after major bushfires in Western Australia, farmers would get spooked on a hot day with a breeze,’ he said.
 
‘People report fatalities straight away, but not the morbidities that these communities have to face.
 
To create that resilience, having that intimate knowledge of a community as a rural doctor certainly helps.’
 
‘My job will be to make sure that we engage with world class specialists and create robust environments for the Australian community, and impart a level of safety to that community,’ he said.
 
‘I’m a through and through rural doctor, and I’m proud of what I’ve achieved.’



asylum-seeker-health chief-medical-officer CMO home-affairs Nauru refugee-health



Max Kamien   20/07/2018 9:14:52 AM

Hard boss, tough job. Best wishes.


David Berger   20/07/2018 12:09:26 PM

Since 'Gog', as the RACGP so lovingly likes to call him, refuses to correspond with Doctors for Refugees in its attempts to advocate for individual refugees it is hard to see WHAT USE HE IS, other than as a patsy for the Australian government.

In the context of the reality of what these people face, this makes me want to vomit:

"‘We may not provide treatment in Australia, but we make sure treatment we provide in other countries is at a high standard. My remit is to provide safe and quality healthcare and make sure that translates to the individuals and facilities we engage,’ Dr Gogna said."

This is what we get when we raise concerns about seriously ill refugees and asylum seekers to his email address:

"Dear Dr ,

Thank you for your email to Dr Gogna.

Please be advised that the process for making complaints, suggestions or giving compliments to the Department is through the Global Feedback Unit (GFU).

You are encouraged to submit the information by using the online form via the following link:

https://www.border.gov.au/.../visa-citizenship-service.

The Department is aware that matters you raise may be sensitive. Please be advised that the Department complies with the

Privacy Act 1988, the Australian Privacy Principles and the Australian Border Force Act 2015.

If you seek access to medical records, please refer to the International Health and Medical Services (IHMS) website:

http://www.ihms.com.au/medical-records-requests.php

Yours sincerely

Health Service


Julie Campbell   23/07/2018 2:24:40 PM

I cannot imagine this doctor doing anything but the best for his patients. He cared for my parents during his time in Yeppoon in a manner that can only be described as exemplary. He was loved by his staff and he raised the quality of the service there. Give him a chance to come to grips with what must surely be one of the hardest jobs in Australia before judging.


David Berger   19/10/2018 11:23:36 AM

I have continued to write to him regularly about refugees on Nauru and Manus and have yet to receive a single reply. Julie Campbell, he is not doing very well, is he?


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