Tuesday, 16 March 2010

Is this an example of Rudd's future local health service delivery? GP Super Clinic causing stress in Grafton

No-one would deny that the 2007 Federal Labor general practice super clinic election promise was very welcome in the Clarence Valley. However, it has been a rather strange affair as reflected in The Daily Examiner letters to the editor columns over recent months, in light of the fact that this proposed clinic is a taxpayer-funded project though a $5 million federal capital grant for land purchase, building design, construction and equipment purchase.

One has to wonder why Rudd, Roxon and Dept of Health & Aging are allowing a private company Ochre Health (30 percent-owned by global investment bank Lazard through Lazard Carnegie & Wylie which in turn is connected with former Labor PM Keating) to set the agenda in this rather highhanded manner. After all, this clinic is supposed to provide another free health service as an adjunct to the public health/hospital system.

Even if it is apparently a joint venture agreement between Ochre and the Commonwealth, the company appears to outlay next to nothing and it will obviously be well-paid for any ongoing state-level service delivery if past contracts of over $1 million per annum are any indication and, the contracts Ochre usually has with its own doctors are based in part on expectations of the patient volume they attract with practitioners turning over to the company 40% of any Medicare bulk billing payment received.

It is understood that the property eventually reverts to Ochre ownership outright, which would mean that the land and building containing this conveyor-belt medical clinic would be able to be sold on for non-medical purposes in 2031 without penalty.
As the only consolation objecting neighbours have concerning this development is that it would provide a permanent super clinic for the local community, I wonder what they will think if any change of business type came to pass.

A brief history 29 January 2009 to 15 March 2010:

Super clinic site

NO doubt that the Valley is in great need of improved medical services.
Sixty-four people submitted written objection to (Clarence Valley) council regarding the location for the proposed (medical) super clinic (in Grafton).
I objected to the location of the super clinic in a residential area. I was one of many who gave a deputation at the site meeting with council's environment, economic and community committee, and the committee meeting on Tuesday. For three weeks I tried to contact Peter Bailey, of Ochre Health, to discuss my concerns. My calls went unanswered and unreturned. It has been very difficult for residents to get answers to their concerns.
At the site meeting citizens/voters were forbidden to ask any questions. At the site meeting Mr Bailey finally admitted that allied health service includes drug and alcohol treatment at the clinic, to be located in a residential area.
However, when asked by a councillor, Mr Bailey would not reveal why the site was the most suitable out of the other 15 sites allegedly considered.
The committee chair, Des Schroder, advised councillors that the developer's traffic study concluded 'no traffic issues'.
The DA reports an increase of an estimated 300 cars at this location, to begin with.
Ochre Health's report states 30,000 patients in year one, building to 60 by year eight. It is obscured to say the least to suggest such a significant increase in pedestrian and vehicle traffic will have no impact on the area, residential or otherwise.
The DA, and council, does not intend to put basic safety initiatives in place such as a pedestrian crossing or refuges at the site. Despite one councillor's concerns about site selection criteria, including river views for clinic staff, the matter will proceed to council vote this week.
This leaves very little time to exercise our democratic rights and speak out against the location of the super clinic as residents and voters of the Clarence Valley.
K VINCENT, Grafton.
- I WAS present at both the on-site meeting and the meeting of the CVC Environment, Economic and Community Committee meeting relating to DA 2010/0009 on Tuesday.
My strong impression was that I was witnessing a fairly elaborate charade with the issue at stake considered a foregone conclusion. It was deeply disappointing to me, as owner of 5 Fitzroy Street, Grafton, to hear Councillor Ian Tiley moving and Councillor Pat Comben seconding a motion that the DA be recommended for approval at the council meeting of Tuesday, March 16. Both councillors gave 'the greater good' as their justification. Surely 'the greater good' is that Grafton has secured the GP Super Clinic, a good not dependent on site chosen. Please note in this respect that 63 submissions made against the DA were objections to the location only (as compared to one submission of support).
Matters of concern:
(A) It is apparently indisputable that the DA could not be approved under the CVC's own existing 5(a) special uses (school/church) public purposes zoning arrangements. However, we are told that under clause 8 of the infrastructure SEPP if there is an inconsistency between the policy and any other environmental planning instrument, the policy prevails. My reading is that the EEC Committee therefore chose to avail themselves of the opportunity to over-ride their own council policy and the interests of affected ratepayers and residents in order to accommodate a large-scale commercial enterprise, something they concede is not generally referred to as a community purpose. Why? Why not adhere to council's own policy and leave it to the applicant/developer to respond? This would guarantee confidence in transparency and accountability. There are definitely other sites where the clinic could be more appropriately located.
(B) The chairman of the EEC Committee stated at the committee meeting of March 9 that there was only one DA relating to the super clinic for consideration at the meeting and that consideration of other sites was therefore irrelevant. Please consider these points. (i) There was, as far as I know, no community consultation re possible sites for construction of clinic. (ii) There was, as far as I know, no public call for expressions of interest. (iii) There was, according to Peter Bayley of Ochre Health Ltd, an understanding between St Mary's Parish (vendor) and Ochre Health (purchaser of site) that no contact with press or community be made until such time as a joint announcement be agreed. (iv) Well before this announcement was made on January 11, 2010, a DA had been lodged on Christmas Eve 2009. (v) The first communication I received came in a letter from Clarence Valley Council dated January 12, 2010 (received January 14) with an initial deadline for submissions of January 28. It is not surprising therefore that no other DA was before the committee. Further, an examination of the preceding points lends credibility to my impression that I have been participating in a charade.
(C) At both site and committee meeting some vital matters were dealt with cursorily or not at all: (a) The first of these is traffic. In my view, a GP Super Clinic means delay, congestion, frustration, an accident waiting to happen. (b) The second is the disregard for council's own policy re buildings and sites of historic interest. I have been in contact with the National Trust of NSW and the matter was considered by their advocacy unit. At present the Trust prefers not to be involved unless a building listed on their Special Register (there are two in this historic precinct) is threatened with demolition. However, they have asked to be kept informed.
- Edited for length.
KAY ALDEN, Grafton.

Super clinic for Grafton 29 January 2009

Provider chosen to run GP super clinic 15 July 2009

Super Clinic site a secret 17 November 2009

Site announced for new GP super clinic 13 January 2010

No methadone for super clinic 23 February 2010

GP says support for local doctors needed 24 February 2010

Sth Grafton calls for medical clinic 11 March 2010

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

There are many inaccuracies and loose assumptions in the postings by K Vincent and Mrs Alden.
One particular comment by K Vincent is an abolute misrepresentation and to which I take offence.