Katherine is continuing to battle a lack of healthcare staff, as the hospital looks to employ a telehealth specialist who will supervise the emergency room from a location outside Katherine.
According to an NT Government tender, NT Health is seeking a specialist fellow from the Australian College of Emergency Medicine to manage the Katherine Hospital emergency department from a remote location.
The specialist would work in the role for 12 months.
The tender documents state a lack of staff at the hospital has led to "ongoing critical roster gaps".
These roster gaps "compromise" the hospital's ability to meet patient demand and hinders the staff's ability to provide high quality and safe patient care, according to the documents.
The ongoing shortage of staff has pushed NT Health to consider virtual options such as telehealth.
Rural Doctors Association of Australia chief executive officer Peta Rutherford said telehealth is not appropriate for a supervisor role in a large hospital like Katherine Hospital, particularly in the emergency department.
She said hands-on care should always be the preferred option, and the virtual supervisor should only be used as a short term interim solution, until a permanent director can be employed in Katherine.
"Patients are presenting with trauma and they need hands on clinical care and assessment," she said.
"You can't replace hands-on care... it may be a short term additional support, but it can't replace the number of clinicians you have on the roster."
Ms Rutherford said a shortage of staff cannot be fixed with telehealth, and encouraged NT Health to look beyond virtual options to address the problem.
"It is a short term support for the doctors that are there, it certainly isn't a long term option to address your workforce shortages," she said.
"They definitely need to look for a permanent solution."
In a statement, an NT Health spokesperson said the virtual supervisor would "provide clinical decision making support as well as a peer support network for clinicians" at Katherine Hospital, but claimed the position is not intended to replace hands-on emergency medical care.
"It would also provide additional support and supervision to junior doctors to provide quality, safe emergency care," the spokesperson said.
"Implementing the telehealth medical emergency support service enables virtual face-to-face conversations and will allow for discussions about clinical decision making to occur at any time, regardless of location and allows for more Territorians to access diagnosis and treatment close to home.
"Telehealth medical support provisions is not intended to replace the role of an emergency medicine specialist on the ground in Katherine but is an additional support service for the community."
This comes just weeks after two private GP clinics opened in Katherine, ending a months long stretch where 8000 residents in the town did not have access to a private clinic.
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