Page 5382 - Week 14 - Thursday, 19 November 2009

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West Belconnen Health Cooperative Ltd

MS PORTER (Ginninderra) (6.08): Last evening, along with Mrs Dunne and about 30 residents of Canberra’s north-western suburbs, I attended the annual general meeting of the West Belconnen Health Cooperative Ltd. I attend many AGMs of not-for-profit organisations in this town; however, last night’s meeting was particularly significant. It was significant because the meeting was held in the premises of the West Belconnen Health Cooperative Ltd, which it will occupy when it opens its doors for business early in the new year.

In October 2004 I attended a public meeting held in the Ginninderra Labor Club. A group of concerned residents got together—I believe Mrs Dunne was also there, if my memory is correct—to discuss what options might be available to them to address the lack of GPs and related medical services to the 20,000 people living in Charnwood and the surrounding suburbs of Macgregor, Latham, Flynn, Dunlop and Fraser. At that time there were no GPs in those suburbs, as the three doctors had either retired or left the area.

As a consequence of the public meeting, it was agreed that a steering committee would be established to determine the most appropriate way forward to address the lack of medical services. I was one of those who became a member of the steering committee, and I know Mrs Dunne also attended a number of those meetings. I can remember morning after morning turning up at the Charnwood primary school at breakfast time. I know that people who attended those meetings included Michael Pilbrow, Peter White, Brian Frith, Roger Nicoll and Brian Reinhardt. All were determined to make their shared vision a reality. I was very proud when they offered me the role as patron of the committee.

Early next year, the West Belconnen Health Cooperative Ltd will open its doors in premises that many of you would remember as the site of the former Charnwood high school. As the name implies, it will be no ordinary health centre. In fact, there is only one other like it, and that is the one in Footscray, on which the Charnwood centre has been largely modelled. The centre is not for profit and is owned by those who are its members. For a small annual fee, depending on your income, members will be able to attend the centre and see the doctor of their choice by appointment, something which is becoming all too rare in this day and age of corporate medical practices, where you attend the centre, get a number and then wait your turn to see the next available doctor.

During my time in this city, I have been involved in the establishment of a number of community organisations. However, I have never before had the opportunity of helping to establish an entity such as this. Can you begin to imagine the hurdles that needed to be overcome in order to make this dream a reality? When that group of people got together just over five years ago, all they had was the burning commitment to help deliver much needed medical services to their community

The original steering committee also had the foresight to retain the services of David Bailey, a highly respected and experienced medical practice manager. With the guidance of this man, the board has been able to put together an excellent business model and also recruit a team of professionals to staff the centre for its opening.

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