Clinic sounds alarm

WITH the impending closure of the Central Highlands General Practice next month, the Derwent Valley Medical Centre is bracing for an influx of patients they cannot accommodate.

Dr Lester Pepingco, of the Derwent Valley Medical Centre has been vocal in the past that his clinic needs support and despite four doctors joining earlier this year – the highest number of the region – there were still too few doctors in the area.

Dr Pepingco said the closure of the clinic in Ouse would bring a further level of strain on the clinic in New Norfolk.

“For us, it means we’re going to have another 1200- plus patients seeking their health care services elsewhere, most likely with us, even though we’ve had our books closed to patients for over a year,” Mr Pepingco said.
“We experienced a similar situation when the practice closed in Brighton, once they shut down, our waiting times just steadily increased, we currently have about 12,500 patients on our books, and with more patients, it’ll push to even longer waits.”

Dr Pepingco has called for the reinstatement of the Rural Health Grant, which incentivises new doctors to join clinics in regional areas.

“In the grand scheme of things, it’s not that great of a financial investment from the government, and evidence shows that if you can get a doctor in a regional location to fall in love with a community, they are far more likely to stay on for longer.”

Dr Pepingco also said Tasmanian Health Service data indicated the Derwent Valley had three times the rate of type-2 diabetes and respiratory illnesses compared to the national average.

“We have the same rural rating as the CBD, it is absurd, if we moved our practice 1.6 km’s down the road, we would be recognised as a practice with more complicated rural needs.”

Health Minister Jeremy Rockliff said the Tasmanian Government was engaging with HR-Plus and the Central Highlands Council to find a solution at the Central Highlands General Practice.

“The government acknowledges the important role GP’s and the primary healthcare sector plays in caring for our community,” Mr Rockliff said.
“The introduction of mandatory vaccinations in healthcare settings is about protecting our health workforce and also the vulnerable patients in their care.”