RESIDENTS of the Central Highlands could be made to travel more than 100kms to visit a doctor or pharmacist after the Central Highlands General Practice in Ouse announced it will close next month.
The shock move will place an additional load on patients, as well as clinics in the Derwent Valley which are already at patient capacity.
Earlier this month, the State Government announced it would make vaccinations mandatory for all health care workers as of October 31.
However it is understood staff at the Ouse clinic have rejected the vaccine, leaving the clinic unable to operate.
Central Highland General Practice practice manager Susan Swart said efforts were being made to have the practice reopen as soon as possible.
“The clinic will close on October 31 because we will not be able to meet the requirements of the mandate for all health care workers,” Ms Swart said.
“We’ve already started our recruitment process, but it’s not something that will just fall in to place, the clinic may be closed for a month or two, it depends on the response.”
“We are working together with council and recruitment agencies to find a solution and we are making alternative options available to our patients if it is needed, though it may not be the best option.”
Central Highlands Mayor Luanne Triffett said that Government mandate and personal vaccine preferences have left the region devastated. “This leaves the community in a devastating position.
“There are 1200 patients that attend the practice,” Ms Triffett said.
“The pharmacy licence is also held there, so where do the locals go now?
“Where do they fill a script?
“We have an aging population, many community members do not have transport or cannot travel and the Derwent Valley doctors aren’t able to accept new patients.
“It has left Central Highlands patients devastated, with nowhere to go.”
Derwent Valley Mayor Ben Shaw said he was concerned for the additional pressure it could put on already understaffed practices in New Norfolk.
“We are already under the pump in New Norfolk, it’s a real concern for our community,” Mr Shaw said.
“Our surgery increased the number of doctors from four to eleven last year, but we’ve only been able to retain seven of them.
“We don’t have enough doctors in the Derwent Valley, let alone when patients from the Central Highlands don’t have a doctor to go to in their area.”
Mr Shaw has said they were exploring the options available to them, which included lobbying the State Government to reintroduce rural health grants to attract health care workers to regional areas.
In a statement on the Derwent Valley Medical Centre Facebook Page, Dr Lester Peppingo said despite doing their best to see as many patients as they could “it does feel like the odds are stacked against us.”
“DVMC’s books have been closed to new patients for almost a year and unfortunately that will continue to be the case.”
“We cannot adequately care for more patients and aim to maintain excellent health care to as many as we can,” Dr Peppingo said.