By Margaret Maccoll
The community rallied to the aid of Cooroora Family Health at Pomona last Saturday after being told it was struggling with more than $300,000 in debt to Medicare with repayments of $15,000 per month and exhaustion had led the clinic’s principal doctor Ann Buchan to take a break.
After a letter was sent out to almost 3000 of about 5000 patients on its books to alert them to the issue a large group gathered at a forum at the clinic to work out a way to keep the service open.
People handed over $50 notes to staff and others suggested they all chip in to wipe the debt to Medicare.
“We have done everything we can to stop Medicare taking money from us but they are not listening,” Dr Buchan’s partner Colleen Brosnan said.
“We are willing to do whatever we can within our means at this point.”
In the letter to patients Dr Buchan said the clinic had amassed the debt because it operated outside the normal parameters of Medicare by providing an emergency room type service which saves them from attending hospital Emergency Departments, providing three hospital type beds and bulk billing all patients.
“We are trying to support a very stretched health service by doing our best to maintain care without hospital admission,” she said in the letter.
Noosa MP Sandy Bolton found out about the clinic’s predicament only a couple of days before the forum and contacted Primary Health Network (PHN) Sunshine Coast senior manager Robb Major who spoke at the rally.
Mr Major said PHNs had been set up by the Australian Government to ensure the effective operation of medical services. They reported to the Department of Health and were able to agitate at ministerial level.
“It is clear there is strong support within the community,” he said.
“We have two agencies that will be able to help within a small space of time (to supply locus doctors) but we still need community support.”
Mr Major said he was confident the clinic would be able to continue. Two groups formed from Saturday’s forum. Mr Major said his agency could help the clinic with “sustainable models of primary care” but he had still to discuss a strategy with Dr Buchan, while a second group formed by community members would look at a general strategy to keep the practice running.”I know Dr Ann was highly sought after for having a broad based and holistic approach,” he said. To keep updated with the progress of Cooroora Family Health visit its Facebook page.