A bright future for the Condobolin Medical Centre
“A small community is like a big warm hug,” says Joy Perry, Practice Manager at the Ochre Health Melrose Medical Centre in Condobolin. “The patients are an extended family. In a small community you know everyone. You relate to everyone’s pain and good fortune.”
Joy is a local girl who married a local boy. She has three grown up children and is a keen supporter of the Condobolin Rams rugby league team. Joy has been the Practise Manager of the local medical centre for three years and recently oversaw the move from the decades old building to the new, state of the art medical centre.
“The locals are very proud,” she says. “It’s not our building; it’s the community’s building. They’ve watched it grow. Now we are all in here, it’s all functioning and we can offer more services. For example, we have a podiatrist and an exercise physiologist here fortnightly. Services are growing and specialists save the community from travelling. We’ve got three great doctors, some really great nurses and receptionists so we’ve got an excellent team to offer specialists.”
“A small community is like a big warm hug.”
Ochre Health, formed in 2002, provides healthcare management, medical and allied health services to regional, remote and outer urban communities around Australia. “OCHRE” stands for “Outback Coastal Health and REcruitment” and is, of course, the classic, earthy pigment of the Australian outback. Ochre Health operates in 14 rural Australian towns as well as urban areas of Canberra. Ochre took over the management of the Melrose Medical Centre in Condobolin in 2010 and the new medical centre opened in January 2014. The original building, adjacent to the new building, will continue to be used for specialist services.
“The community are really happy to see the old building still being used – it has such sentimental value attached to it,” says Joy, who recalls taking her children to the old centre for immunisations when they were young. “The plan is to join the buildings by a walkway, integrating the two with one reception.”
“Improving health outcomes to those ‘most at risk’ and improving access, where access is often difficult due to geography, to specialist medical and allied health services, is what Ochre Health does best,” says Ochre Health General Manager, Maureen Thornhill. “We value integration and look to build on the existing capacity of a local community in towns such as Condobolin – working in with the Area Health Service and the Shire Council, among other entities in the town, we were able to design a medical centre to address the current need and also take into account the future needs.”
One of the key design factors of the new building is the large, three bed treatment room which allows more patients that present without an appointment to be managed without the need to go to hospital, thus reducing the load on the local emergency department.
“It also it allows us to open on Saturdays, providing extended access and decreasing demand on the hospital,” explains Maureen. “Utilising the latest IT hardware and software as well as tele-health services means we are better able to manage patient information flow between the hospital, the medical centre and specialist service providers.”
Dr Peter Winn worked in Queensland as a GP for over a decade before he and his wife, a nurse, decided they wanted to see more of Australia.
“We found Ochre and they said there was a brand new clinic about to open in Condobolin,” says Dr Winn. “We liked what we saw, we met the staff and they were all lovely, so we’ve been here now for seven months. My wife works with me here as well. We love the area, we love the town, and we will probably stay until we eventually retire.”
Practise Manager Joy Perry believes the Ochre Health management model has made a huge difference to retaining health professional in town.
“We have had a lot of trouble getting and keeping doctors in the past,” says Joy. “But two of our doctors have increased their families since they’ve been here – one of our doctors just had a new bub and the other doctor’s wife is due soon.”
“Ochre are a great support and the Shire has also been fantastic,” she says. “We are all working together.”