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.

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