Friday, August 15, 2008

Inquiry into the Wanniassa Medical Centre closure

The closure and relocation of staff from the Wanniassa Medical Centre to Phillip has prompted a strong community reaction. The community held a public rally and is being supported in its demand for action by the HCCA.

The Standing Committee on Health and Disability of the ACT Legislative Assembly is holding an Inquiry into the closure. HCCA has made a submission to the enquiry, this available on the HCCA website. Russell McGowan was a witness at the Committee’s public hearing on Thursday 14 August. The transcript of that evidence and a copy of all submissions to the Committee can be found on the Assembly’s website.

Our Submission and evidence raised the concerns of many of the Wanniassa health consumers that the relocated service is relatively inaccessible for Wanniassa consumers, particularly those with mobility issues, the choice of doctor is increasingly unrealistic, the quality of service is likely to decline with the need for high levels of throughput and that will especially effect those consumers with chronic and complex conditions.

It has become clear that the Wanniassa community has been seriously disadvantaged by the closure and relocation of staff and facilities. Also there is a need for the ACT Government to work with the Commonwealth to achieve a satisfactory resolution to both the immediate Wanniassa problem and to the longer term problem of corporate medicine replacing the traditional GP practice.

Broader issues were also raised by those giving evidence to the Committee, in particular;

· the tendency of corporate ownership of medical care to place profits before care,

· the expansion of corporate medicine into many areas in Canberra,

· the difficulty in providing community based health care to Wanniassa consumers if the current lessee does not vacate the lease, as has been asserted, and

· the wider impact on a community following withdrawal of services as part of the process of undue concentration of primary health care.

HCCA has argued that the ACT Government needs to move quickly by developing innovative approaches to provide the community with primary health care in Wanniassa. There are many options that the government can put in place to establish and manage the necessary community based primary services. HCCA considers it critical that consumers participate in the development, planning and management of those services.

Thursday, August 14, 2008

Inquiry into the closure of the Wanniassa Medical Centre

We have prepared a submission to the ACT Legislative Assembly Standing Committee on Health and Disability.

We have sought views from our members and drawn on that input in preparing our submission. Many people contacted us to share their perspective on this issue and we thank you for your support.

Our submission is available on our website (90kb Pdf) and available for you to read. We are interested to hear your feedback on this.

The Terms of Reference for the Inquiry are online. In summary the Committee will consider:
  • the circumstances of the closure;
  • the impact on the residents of the Tuggeranong Valley;
  • the nature of the ACT Government's relationship with privately owned general practice in the ACT; and
  • possible options for the future delivery of GP services in the ACT.
The Canberra Times contributes to publish letters to the Editor on this issue.

Sunday, August 10, 2008

Closure of cancer clinic disadvantages consumers

The ACT’s largest private hospital Calvary John James Hospital is planning to close its cancer clinic by the end of September. It is understood that the cancer clinic is financially unsustainable, like the Wanniassa Medical Centre whose imminent closure was announced last week.

There has been considerable coverage in the media with the local ABC and The Canberra Times picking up this story.

The Cancer Unit at Calvary John James, which was open four days a week, treated about 70 patients. While most of the patients would be able to continue private treatment at the Zita Mary Clinic at Calvary Hospital, Bruce; or at National Capital Private Hospital, at Garran, services in the public sector at the Canberra Hospital were already stretched, and it would be difficult for the private patients to be absorbed there.

The commercial imperatives observed by both health funds and private sector health providers cannot be ignored, but should not override the public interest because of their need to provide a return to their shareholders

Russell McGowan has commented on this. He said:

“Vulnerable people will suffer because of the failure by health insurance funds to support key Canberra health services. People may be able to get suitable treatment elsewhere, but having to face these changes will be another impediment for consumers to confront at a time when they are least able to deal with the extra stress”
"Ensuring continuity of care in the one location is an important element in providing the safe, high quality and affordable care that is essential in obtaining optimal outcomes from cancer treatment.”

We would invite you to contact the office with your thoughts on this matter.

We have issues a press release (87kb Pdf) that can be found on our website.

Tuesday, August 5, 2008

Rally to protest the closure of the Wanniassa Medical Centre

Around 300 people participated in this morning's rally to protest against the closure of the Wanniassa Medical Centre. The rally was organised by Annette Ellis MP. Ms Ellis addressed the crowd outlining the concerns she had heard from the local community.

Russell McGowan addressed the crowd and highlighted the concern of the HCCA that this decision was made based on what was best for the shareholders of Primary Healthcare rather than the best interests of the local community and the consumers who attended the surgery.

I took the opportunity to mix with people this morning and had a number of conversations. The themes were very clear
  • profit comes before the welfare of the patient
  • parking at the Phillip Clinic is poor and access for elderly is difficult, the access via bus was mentioned many times and is a source of considerable concern.
  • the closure of the clinic erodes the community. People expressed concern at the effect of the closure on other businesses in the Centre, including the chemist, supermarket and newsagent.
  • One woman commented that if she had to wait for hours to see a "random GP" at the Phillip Clinic she may as well go to the Emergency Department where she will see a random doctor at no direct cost to her.
There has been strong media coverage in this story. Members of the public have posted comments to the Canberra Times website in response to Natasha Rudra's story last Friday.

There is a petition circulating. This will be forwarded to Primary Healthcare on Thursday night so that it arrives on 8 August. Contact the office of Annette Ellis at 205 Anketell Street
Tuggeranong or by calling 62931344

Friday, August 1, 2008

Closure of Wanniassa Medical Centre

The closure of the Wanniassa Medical Centre and consequent relocation of the services and GPs to Phillip is a matter of great concern to residents in the Wanniassa area and is an all too familiar story to Canberra.

We have been contacted by members expressing their concern over the closure of the Wanniassa Medical Clinic. Their views are shared by many others, as you can see with the media coverage.

The issue of continuity of care, especially with people with chronic conditions, is a significant concern.

One of our members commented:

I cannot see that moving a medical centre which caters for a wide range of people in a local area, with nearby shops and with reasonably good public transport to a location in a busy centre without adequate public transport and parking problems on many days is at all 'patient centered'.

Annette Ellis MP for Canberra has issued a press release saying that she considers this to be unacceptable. She also says:

“The Wanniassa Medical Centre has been there for 20 years, it has regular patients who have connections and relationships with their own GPs. The Colbee Court facility is walk-in, no appointments – so if you want a particular doctor you’ll have to turn up and hope. For those who can make the commute to Phillip, their medical relationships with their doctors are not guaranteed because of this move."

The Government’s walk-in clinic offers one solution to this intractable problem but we would also encourage serious consideration of expanding the clinical roles of health care professionals, including the increased use of nurse practitioners and other allied health workers.

The GP clinic is an entry point to our heath system and at the same time operates as a business. Many GPs are in the unenviable position of balancing consumer access to primary health care with meeting their business costs. Inevitably this leads to conflicting priorities. In this case, it appears that many of the consumers using the Wanniassa Medical Centre are the losers.

We need to find a more effective way of ensuring consumers receive safe and appropriate care in primary health care setting.

The HCCA media release is available on our website (34kb Pdf).

We want to hear your views on this issue