GP of the Year joins campaign to protect town from dangerous dust

Callie Morgan

27/02/2018 1:16:38 PM

RACGP GP of the Year Dr Amanda Bethell has teamed up with Greenpeace to campaign against environmental damage and serious health risks being caused by the closed Augusta Power Stations site.

Dr Amanda Bethell said she is proud to be a voice for her patients.
Dr Amanda Bethell said she is proud to be a voice for her patients.

Dr Bethell, who has lived in Port Augusta for six years, said she felt part of the community and was proud to be given the opportunity to be a voice for her patients.
‘The health effects of coal and ash [from the power stations site] have often been topics of passionate discussion over dinners with colleagues since I moved to Port Augusta,’ Dr Bethell told newsGP.
‘I saw it was my role as a rural GP and as the RACGP’s GP of the Year to be part of the group of residents turning the discussion into action and do all I could to protect my patients.’
Dr Bethell said the power stations site, which has been closed since May 2016, has caused ongoing stress and serious health issues for the local community.
‘The short notice closure of the power stations was traumatic for employees suddenly out of work,’ Dr Bethell said.
‘Now, on high-wind days, those same employees and other members of the Port Augusta community have to endure the dust from the power stations blanketing their town.’
Dr Bethell has found the health effects from the dust to be stark and significant.
‘When the dust is blowing, many people report hay-fever symptoms, including watery eyes, rhinorrhea, a sore throat and skin irritation,’ she said.
‘Patients with asthma or chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) have experienced increased cough and wheeze and several of these patients have been admitted to hospital.’
Dr Bethell chose to front Greenpeace’s media campaign to remediate the Augusta Power Stations site because she felt it was part of her role as a GP in a country town.
‘I am immersed in the health needs of my community – through my own lived experiences and the experiences of my patients,’ she said.
‘GPs in regional and rural areas are well-placed in their community and beyond to tell the stories of those who don’t have a voice.’
Dr Bethell believed  there were significant personal gains to be made by voicing hers and her patients’ concerns.
‘On a personal level, working to improve the environmental health of my town will eventually improve my own workload as GP,’ she said.
‘It will also improve my own health and my children’s health.’
RACGP President Dr Bastian Seidel said Dr Bethell has devoted her career to enhancing the lives of her patients and their family members, so he was not surprised she was speaking out.
‘This is why Dr Bethell is Australia’s GP of the Year,’ Dr Seidel told newsGP.
‘She is an outstanding advocate for rural general practice and a leading light in the delivery of primary healthcare to the Port Augusta community.
‘Her care doesn’t stop when she leaves her practice at the end of the day. She has a deep understanding of the needs of her patients and of her community and, in this instance, her town needs a respected voice to speak out against the health risks being caused by the dust.
‘First and foremost, this is a health issue. The town’s GPs should be heard.’

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Daniel Byrne   2/03/2018 7:48:30 AM

Great work Amanda. An inspiration to all of us to use our highly valued standing in our communities to improve the health of our patients.

Dr Joveria Javaid   2/03/2018 2:49:11 PM

So proud of you Dr Amenda Bethell.