How Kenilworth's battle changed the way government funds GPs
IF THE immediate future can be sorted, a game-changing tweak to Federal funding could be just what the doctor ordered for Kenilworth.
The Sunshine Coast hinterland town has long been fighting for its own GP after the closure of its medical centre, refusing to accept extended travel or ambulance calls for basic health complaints.
It seems their voices are being heard all the way in Canberra, after changes to the Rural General Practice Grants program were announced today by Assistant Minister for Rural Health Dr David Gillespie.
The changes, explained by Member for Fairfax Ted O'Brien, enable the council to make an application for a grant of up to $300,000 from the $13.1 million pool, for infrastructure projects like fit-outs, renovations and constructions of a GP building or for installation of communications technology and more.
The change means the applications are no longer limited to GPs and any grants received are not seen as assessable income, rather as grants and enable practices to open satellite offices.
Mr O'Brien said a creative solution had been identified in an extension to the existing Kenilworth Information Centre which could house a new medical centre, praising the efforts of Kenilworth locals, in helping generate the changes to the Federal grant system.
He said legal arrangements would need to be made in future in regards to the leasing of the medical centre with the council and community groups and the GPs, but said the announcement was a significant step forward for the town in its bid to have a permanent doctor.
Division 10 Councillor Greg Rogerson said it was exciting news and would hopefully lead to a more viable situation for a medical centre to be established.
"We can't expect people to come in if it's going to cost them money," Cr Rogerson said.
He said the focus was on ensuring the long-term security of any medical centre.
He'd asked for a report to be done on the possibility of extending the Kenilworth Information Centre for a medical centre at the last council meeting.
While he admitted it was not the council's "core business", the Kenilworth community was in desperate need of a doctor and he was eager to see a solution reached.
"I'm sure the majority of the Kenilworth community would be ecstatic at the news that finally there's some hope of a breakthrough," he said.
Kenilworth Chamber of Commerce acting president Dennis James said he was pleased to see some action being taken, noting the need for a medical centre, but personally, he was unsure that all options had been fully explored.
"It's encouraging to see them thinking outside the box," he said, before adding his concern that an arrangement which would see the existing medical centre reopened hadn't been properly sought.
He also held reservations as to the effect the medical centre project may have on the existing information centre and its volunteers.
"It would be nice to have the medical centre re-open with new doctors and council could subsidise some rent," Mr James said.
Chamber of Commerce member and medical centre delegate Gary Govan said it was definitely positive news, the only question now was whether a short-term arrangement could be made to ensure medical services were available now and continued through with a new medical centre if constructed, clear that the community did not want to wait another six-to-12 months for a doctor.
"If more can be done for the immediate future and the long-term future is guaranteed, that's excellent," he said.
He agreed a solution which would have GPs in the existing medical centre at discounted rent until the new centre was built, allowing them to transition straight into the new centre while delivering services to the town in the short-term, would be the ideal result for Kenilworth.
"It's definitely good news, it's positive, but it's a change of pace to what was presented at a public meeting," Mr Govan said.