Region's health crisis worsens
THERE was no doubt Allora residents are hurting as about 600 residents crammed into the community hall desperate to hear about the future of acquiring a local doctor.
Concerned resident and member of the newly-formed Allora taskforce team Roy Smith went as far as to suggest they defer their planned streetscape upgrade to spend the money on the more urgent medical issue.
“This issue is the highest priority for this community... the core functions of a community are like the cake and the rest is icing – it’s nice to have but not essential,” Mr Smith said.
After keeping an eye on the concerns of the Killarney community for more than 18 months and the difficulty to attain funding to build a suitable surgery, Mr Smith wanted to try another avenue apart than state funding.
“I have been in the community for about 60 years and I have never seen a meeting as big as that. It indicates the amount of concern and issues residents have,” he said.
Mr Smith believes the previous Allora Shire Council Office could make a more efficient and modern medical practice to attract a much-needed doctor to the region as the current practice is not sufficient.
“We have got this building, we handed it over to the Warwick Shire Council debt free. I don’t think it’s much to ask,” he said as Allora residents applauded.
Allora pharmacist Jon Constable chaired the meeting, also attended by the eight Southern Downs Regional Councillors, Economic Development Officer John Randall and Condamine Medical Centre chairman Bryan Slattery.
As a result of the meeting a taskforce was formed with Jon Constable, Roy Smith, David Brown, Ann Balmain, David Dwan and Glyn Rees ready to take action on working towards the doctor goal.
Councillors copped an earful as desperate residents wanted answers about making funds available and the possibility of using the former council office.
Dr Slattery explained the struggle the practice had with their own need in Warwick and said they had been working hard to try and find a doctor for Allora.
“I know as a community you must be hurting – it is an important need to the town with a lot of industry that depend on medical resources,” Dr Slattery said.
“The better medical facilities you have here the better we can attract doctors,” Dr Slattery said.
“We are certainly happy as a practice to provide support to make the package more attractive for a doctor.”
As concerned residents in Allora look to the future and hope a revamped building will attract a doctor, Killarney residents are still waiting with their fingers crossed.
Killarney Task Force chairman Ross Bartley said it would be another eight weeks before they knew if they were successful in their fourth bid for Federal Government funding.
“It’s been a very involved drawn-out process... we just hope we are successful in this round of funding,” Cr Bartley said.
The issue arised at yesterday’s SDRC community services committee meeting, where councillors acted quickly to make a decision following a request from the taskforce.
Crs Jo McNally, Denise Ingram and Neil Meiklejohn were voted to be appointed to the Allora Medical Centre Taskforce, as well as EDO John Randall.
The councillors also voted to allocate $5000 to investigate whether the former Allora Shire Council offices – and other buildings in Allora – would be a suitable option as a surgery.
CEO Rod Ferguson and council officers will work together before next week’s general meeting to come up with the best options of where to take the money from.
One of the options thrown around the committee table yesterday was to take the money from the $30,000 committed to develop the Allora streetscape; however $11,000 of this has already been committed.
Cr Vic Pennisi said a refurbished surgery would help improve the “package” to make Allora an attractive option for a doctor.
“One of the options might to be to sell that building to fund the rejuvenation of another. I’m reluctant to stop the streetscape ... it’s been a long-time coming for that community.”
Cr Neil Meiklejohn, who signalled his wish to be on the taskforce, put forward the possibility of even taking money from $100,000 council budgeted for the refurbishment of the Allora Museum.
Another suggestion offered by the chief executive officer Rod Ferguson was to take money from a $10,000 capital assistance program for maintenance of buildings.
Taskforce representative Glyn Rees was at the councillors meeting and said to him, it was a fairly simple situation.
“It’s about identifying and preparing a building as such to have available and form the crux of what is an attractive package to have a medical GP come and set up in town,” he said.
He said while it would be disappointing to see the streetscape money redistributed, the Allora community saw attracting a doctor as a higher priority.
“I haven’t got to tell anybody here the impact that (not having a doctor) is having on the town. Attracting a doctor will also contribute to lifting the economy of the town.”