Clinic a reality

By ED SOUTHORN

THE Tweed will finally get an after-hours GP clinic, expected to start operating late next month or early in July.

Chevron After Hours Service operator Dr Laurie Kelly yesterday confirmed he had been awarded a federal government tender to provide the Tweed Heads-based after-hours bulk-billing service, to be located at the corner of Wharf and Frances Streets, next to the QML pathology rooms.

Dr Kelly said up to 5000 Tweed residents a year - around 100 people a week - used his Palm Beach after-hours clinic and the potential catchment population for the Tweed Heads clinic was up to 50,000 people.

The clinic's minimum operating hours are likely to be 6pm to 10pm Monday to Friday, noon to 9pm Saturday and 9am to 9pm Sunday, with up to six local GPs on a roster.

The clinic will receive $200,000 federal government funding for establishment costs and to assist viability "for the first couple of years", Dr Kelly said.

"Whether it succeeds in the long term will depend on how the local population utilises it," he said.

Dr Kelly, who also runs an after-hours clinic at Southport, said he used to operate a Tweed Heads after-hours clinic until 1987, when Medicare rebate changes made the service unviable.

He said latest rebate reforms had effectively returned after-hours clinics to the pre-1987 financial situation.

Richmond MP Justine Elliot said approval for the clinic was a "great win for our community" and would ease pressure on The Tweed Hospital's emergency ward.

During last year's federal election campaign, Ms Elliot proposed an after-hours clinic at the hospital. The coalition responded by promising an after-hours clinic nearby.

"We have all fought so hard and I couldn't be happier that it will be delivered," Ms Elliot said.

"This shows what we can achieve for the Tweed by working together."

NSW Senator Bill Heffernan said the government was delivering on its election commitment through a national "round-the-clock Medicare" funding policy, with 60 start-up and subsidy grants of $200,000 each for after-hours clinics and further smaller grants for "at least 100 established clinics".



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