A HEALTH service highly valued by residents in the Waterline area of Bass Coast is set to end within months, resulting in cries of protest from locals.
Bass Coast Community Health Service (BCCHS) established a Nurse Practitioner Clinic in Grantville two years ago after successfully receiving Federal funding to participate in a trial program.
The nurse practitioners taking appointments at Grantville also spend two days a week at consulting rooms at Corinella and District Community Centre (CDCC), giving many residents, particularly the elderly, easy access to medical care without venturing all the way to Lang Lang or Wonthaggi.
Last year, Wonthaggi Medical Group decided to establish a clinic of its own at Grantville, giving locals access to one full-time doctor.
BCCHS locum CEO Ormond Pearson said the presence of a GP in Grantville “has nothing to do” with continued funding for the nurse practitioners.
“We don’t see the establishment of clinic as being detrimental to ongoing funding for this program at all,” Mr Pearson said.
“People need to understand the potential closure of the Nurse Practitioners Clinic is related to funding of the trial which is coming to an end.
“We certainly would like the program to continue but we don’t have the capacity to fund it within our own resources at this point in time.”
Mr Pearson estimates it would cost $150,000 to continue the program for another 12 months.
This amount, he explained, would cover the salaries of two nurse practitioners, a receptionist and other operating costs.
Unless funding is secured to continue the program, appointments with the nurses will cease on June 30.
Mr Pearson confirmed BCCHS had met with Flinders MP Greg Hunt to discuss the matter and there have been preliminary discussions with Gippsland Medicare Local.
“We’re very keen to try and explore options. There’s no doubt that the program has been extremely successful,” he said.
‘We need this clinic’
Corinella resident Paula Clarke is one of many residents who describe the nurse practitioners as “invaluable”.
“We’ve built a relationship with the nurse here and she’s so incredibly thorough,” Paula said.
“Even with a doctor in Grantville, transport remains a major issue for some elderly people around Corinella.
“They can’t easily just hop in a car and get to Grantville.
“We need this clinic – I’m sick of health amenities being taken from us.”
Another Corinella resident, 73 year-old emphysema sufferer Barry Bird, said the visiting nurse practitioner has gone out of her way on numerous occasions to assist him as a patient.
“I’ve had times where I’ve been having a bad trot and she has called to say she’ll come over to my house instead of me going in for an appointment, just like that!” Barry said.
Bass Coast councillor Clare Le Serve, who rallied with other residents last Friday, said the Nurse Practitioner Clinic is “vital” for Corinella and surrounds.
“We fought hard to get this and it’s been a great service,” Cr Le Serve said.
“They are nurses with exceptional skills and training.
“It’s a fantastic service and they’ve been able to assist me and members of my family.”
Cr Le Serve said the issue would be raised at a monthly meeting with the Mayor, shire CEO and Bass MP Ken Smith.
Greg Hunt confirmed he had spoken with Federal Health Minister, Peter Dutton as well as the Assistant Minister for Social Services, Mitch Fifield, “urging them to find avenues for this program to continue to be funded”.
“I am doing all that I can to help find a solution,” Mr Hunt said.
“I have heard many good things about the clinic and believe it provides a fantastic service to the people of Grantville, Corinella and the other Waterline communities.
“The Nurse Practitioner program was originally funded as a two year pilot.
“I understand this funding comes to an end in June.
“The funding was terminated by the previous Labor Government.”
Mr Hunt said a review of the Nurse Practitioner program is due in early 2015, which would look at potential permanent funding for the program.