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13 November 2019
West Wimmera Health Service chief executive Ritchie Dodds is hopeful Nhill, Kaniva and Goroke communities will have reliable access to doctor services early next year.
The health service announced the termination of Tristar Medical Group’s contract regarding the use of its medical facilities in Nhill and Kaniva.
Tristar has provided general practitioners for the Wimmera towns since 2007, and at various stages services in Rainbow, Jeparit, Rupanyup, Minyip and Murtoa.
But Mr Dodds said the organisation had simply ‘lost confidence’ in Tristar to provide enough doctors for residents and to replace doctors when they departed.
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As a result, he said the medical group had been given three months’ notice and would officially finish up at Nhill and Kaniva clinics on January 31, 2020.
“At the end of the day Tristar wasn’t able to replace doctors when they were leaving,” he said.
“It started in Jeparit-Rainbow, then Rupanyup in April-May this year, and, more recently, in Nhill.
“We recognise that it is a time of uncertainty.
“We have an aging population and it is definitely a concern for much of our community, but we’re working on a solution and hopefully we have some good news of a long-term solution.”
Mr Dodds said West Wimmera Health Service was in discussion with two prospective alternative providers for the Nhill and Kaniva clinics, with both advising they would be ready to replace Tristar from February next year.
He said negotiations would continue with the aim of restoring a full-time doctor to jointly service Kaniva and Goroke, and at least three full-time doctors in Nhill.
“We still have a few discussions ahead with them both to determine what will be best for the communities,” he said.
“Three full-time doctors in Nhill would be a minimum. We could have four, but considering population size it might not be as necessary.
“We would also want a full-time doctor in Kaniva who would also be servicing Goroke, potentially by travelling once a week.”
Mr Dodds said there were two Tristar doctors under the West Wimmera Health Service banner.
He said these doctors would have control in choosing whether they continued their Tristar contract at a different location or started with the new provider in Nhill and Kaniva.
Mr Dodds said the health service would also continue to seek a general practitioner for Rupanyup, Minyip and Murtoa communities.
“Rahim Medical recently took on responsibility for the Rupanyup Nursing Home and the service is hopeful of securing a full-time GP service to serve across these communities in the near future,” he said.