General News

24 July, 2023

Cardwell’s full-time medical practice closing its doors

THE small community of Cardwell is in crisis with the pending closure of its full-time medical practice.

By Nick Dalton

Cardwell’s full-time medical practice closing its doors - feature photo

Cardwell Family Practice co-owner Julie McKay said it was with a heavy heart that she and fellow owner Carmen Edmonson had made the decision to close the medical centre on September 1 after being unable to attract a permanent doctor and relying on costly and many locums.

The decision affects 1000 patients, of which many are elderly and Indigenous.

“It has been a horrendous few weeks. We’ve had five doctors in 10 weeks. It was costing too much and there has been no consistency of care for our patients,” Ms McKay said.

She said the closure would put pressure on the two day -a-week Ingham Family Medical Practice at Cardwell, Queensland Ambulance, other medical practices and hospitals and impact the local pharmacy and pathology services.

The practice consists of Ms McKay, who is a registered and accredited mental health nurse, pharmacy manager and bookkeeper Carmen Edmondson and receptionist Shayne Crole.

Ms McKay said she and Ms Crole would have to find another job which was difficult in the small town. Ms Edmonson is retiring. The practice has been operating for eight years.

Ms Crole, who has lived at Cardwell for 32 years, said she didn’t know what she was going to do.

“A lot of patients can’t drive, they can’t go anywhere. Where are they going to receive treatment?,’ she said

State Member for Hinchinbrook  Nick Dametto said he was saddened and disappointed.

He said the lack of GPs and support from both state and federal governments were the reasons for the looming closure cited by Ms Edmondson and Ms McKay.

“Cardwell Family Practice has been a cornerstone of the local community, providing essential medical services to locals for many years,” Mr Dametto said.

“Sadly, it will be the patients that feel it the most as they will be required to find another practice that is taking new patients and need to travel approximately 40 minutes to Ingham or Tully to receive medical care from a GP.

“Fortunately, the Ingham Family Medical Practice owner Dr Brett Scott has indicated that he will take over the care of patients at the Churches of Christ Rockingham Aged Care facility, and Hinchinbrook Health Care, and Tully Medical have advised they can take on new patients.”

State Health Minister Shannon Fentiman said primary health care, including general practice, was the responsibility of the federal government, “however, we are looking at how we can provide support.” 

“We’re offering $20,000 for health workers to move here from interstate and doctors who make the decision to take up a job in regional and remote Queensland will be paid up to an additional $70,000,” she said.

“I’ll be travelling to Canberra for the National Health Ministers meeting this week and will raise a number of topics with my state and federal colleagues.”

Northern Queensland Primary Health Network chief executive officer Robin Whyte said “NQPHN has been actively working with peak bodies and stakeholders to assist in addressing the general practitioner (GP) shortages in North Queensland’s rural and remote communities.”

Townsville Hospital and Health Service (HHS) owns the practice building and is working with other general practice providers who may be interested in delivering the essential service.

Service chief executive Kieran Keyes said a meeting with key people would be held in Cardwell in August.


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