The lack of ear, nose and throat specialists for public patients at Bendigo Health has been described as "deeply worrying".
The incoming chair of the Rural Surgery Section Committee for the Royal Australasian College of Surgeons, Dr Bridget Clancy, said ENT specialists were a vital service, especially in a regional hub like Bendigo.
"It's deeply worrying that vulnerable people in the community are unable to access an ENT surgeon," Dr Clancy said. "I wonder how it got to this point.
"Is there a feeling at the hospital that this service is not necessary or is there something else at play? I don't want to alienate the hospital but something must have gone wrong or they're not taking it seriously."
Dr Clancy, who is currently the ENT representative at the college, said she knew of two ENT surgeons who had been formerly employed at Bendigo Health.
She said she was unsure why they had moved on from the hospital to work in the private sector.
"I can't believe there is no need for public ENT services in a town the size of Bendigo and with the drainage area they care for," Dr Clancy said. "There would be an enormous demand.
"There would be kids from Swan Hill who are already driving two hours to have treatment in Bendigo but will now need to drive almost four hours to Melbourne. It's not only a disruption to children but also to families."
Bendigo Health was asked for a response to Dr Clancy's comments. They were also asked if there were any ENT specialists working at the hospital.
The Bendigo Advertiser was referred to a previous statement which said, "Bendigo Health is mindful that this is an important service and we are actively trying to recruit to it".
Bendigo resident Sarah Hindson said she has been on the waiting list to see an ENT specialist at Bendigo Health for five years.
The 50-year-old received a letter earlier this month which said Bendigo Health would "not be able to offer an ENT service in the short to medium term" and that the hospital "suggested [she] investigate alternative options for treatment".
"ENT surgery is a really important health service," Dr Clancy said. "Some of the most important work I do is caring for children with hearing loss or who have sleep apnea.
"We also care for a lot of patients with a disability, for example people with Down Syndrome have a higher rate of ENT problems.
"Supporting those people and others who are disadvantaged has enormous benefits for the community. It is such an essential service."
Have you signed up to the Bendigo Advertiser's daily newsletter and breaking news emails? You can register below and make sure you are up to date with everything that's happening in central Victoria.