Doctors apply to re-open medical centre
By Michael Sinclair-Jones
AT LEAST one doctor with local experience is understood to have applied to the Shire of Toodyay to help re-open town’s Alma Beard Medical Centre early next year.
The local GP surgery was forced to close at the end of last month after the Northam-based Wheatbelt Health Network announced in August that it could no longer afford to keep the centre open due to rising costs.
Local blood tests and physiotherapy services have also ceased, and patients now have to travel 27km to Northam for the next nearest available treatment.Read more
The Shire of Toodyay says it has begun talking to applicants who wish to re-open the medical centre and work locally after it advertised tenders for new contracts last month.
Shire CEO Suzie Haslehurst said she could not say when local GP and other services might resume.
This would depend on the outcome of negiotiations which were due to start in the final week of last month.
Re-opening the medical centre was discussed at a councillor workshop on November 18 and debated behind closed doors at a council meeting a week later.
Councillors voted 8-0 for Ms Haslehurst to “open negotiations with proponents regarding the terms of an agreement”.
They directed her to report back on the “outcomes of negotiations” by no later than January 31 next year.
The talks would include what business model the shire should adopt for the centre to reopen.
Ms Haslehurst said the shire owned some of the medical centre’s equipment, including patient beds, computers and furniture.
The centre would not be left bare when the Wheatbelt Health Network moved out.
The service provider had not been charged rent to use the shire-owned medical centre building.
Negotiations with replacement GPs would include whether the shire should continue to offer rent-free premises under any new contract.
Other considerations might include free housing, a car or other incentives.
No federal or State funding was available to help pay these additional costs, which the shire said were falling increasingly on regional local government councils such as Toodyay.
Ms Haslehurst said the shire had told the WA Government that it was unfair to expect regional ratepayers to subsidise local doctor services that city people took for granted.
“For instance, you don’t get the Town of Claremont subsiding local GPs,” she said.
Mr Haslehurst said the shire wanted to keep as many local medical services as possible.