WEIPA residents can breathe a little easier after learning that their local medical centre will remain open for the next six months, with plans underway to lock in a new private service provider after that date.
Federal Member for Leichhardt Warren Entsch raised concerns last month that the private Weipa Medical Clinic may be closed down after trading for some years at a loss, with the community potentially losing two experienced family doctors.
“Once I became aware that the closure was a reality, I contacted the new state Health Minister Lawrence Springborg to stress the seriousness of the situation and ask that something be done to ensure that the service wasn’t lost,” Mr Entsch said.
At the request of the newly-elected chair of the WTA, Peter McCulkin, Mr Entsch spoke on Thursday with the CEO of the Cape York Health Service District, Susan Taylor, to get an update.
“I was pleased to hear that the future of the private clinic is looking much brighter,” Mr Entsch said.
“While one of the doctors has decided to move on for personal reasons, Queensland Health has committed to fully funding the other doctor and will also pay for a locum for the next six months, a doctor who I understand is known to the community.”
Queensland Health has also committed to covering the cost of the private health centre’s operations for the next six months and is facilitating negotiations with a private operator who is “very interested” in establishing themselves in Weipa and taking over.
“This is a very good result,” Mr Entsch said. “I was quite worried about the loss of continuation of service, and it seemed such a waste to lose a committed doctor who wanted to be there.
“I’d like to compliment Queensland Health on the fact that they have worked very hard and proactively to find a solution here.
“Both David Kempton and I, as well as Minister Springborg, will be keeping a very close eye on the situation to ensure we get an outcome that is in the best interests of the community.”
Queensland Health has been in discussions with Rio Tinto Alcan regarding the mining company’s commitment to provide a level of ongoing financial support to the centre.
Additionally, Mr Entsch is arranging a meeting with Queensland Health when he is next in Weipa to discuss the impact of Scherger Immigration and Detention Centre on the provision of health services.
“I’ll be working with David Kempton and the Health Centre to secure additional resources from the Federal Government,” he explained. “We must ensure that the level of service provision to Western Cape residents is not compromised by the significant additional demands placed on the service by Scherger.
“I’ll be supporting any efforts by the centre, and new Member for Cook David Kempton, in getting a commitment for this extra financial support.”