Further to a recent decision by the Joint Regional Planning Panel (JRPP) for a $8m private medical centre on the congested Ewingsdale Road, a medical professional has told The Echo the facility is not needed and was not requested by anyone within the local medical fraternity.
The comments by the local doctor, who wishes to remain anonymous, highlight how the decision may well have been made without community support or need.
With almost a 100 per cent approval rate, the JRPP is an unelected panel that decides on large-scale developments instead of elected councils, and will shortly consider the contentious West Byron greenfield development.
According to comments in their determination (available online), the JRPP stated that the facility was needed, yet that claim was unsupported with any evidence.
The doctor said, ‘The medical centre proposal is being seen by many in the local medical community as a cynical exercise to increase the value of a piece of land adjoining a public hospital site – no more.’
‘The proposed services are not essential, and they make no sense in that there is no market for them. The services have not been requested by any local medical entity.
‘The proposed services seek to replicate the already available and underused medical and pharmacy services available within a very short distance (ie West Byron), as well as the underused local medical centres in Byron and Bangalow, all within 5–10 minutes’ drive. Further, there are already existing specialist suites in Byron and Bangalow, and excellent day-surgery facilities within 30 mins (Lismore and Tweed).
‘The restricted hours suggested by the developer (ie closed during morning and afternoon peak/school hours) underlines the cynical nature of this proposal, as no medical business model can ever operate that way. No doctor would work in such a centre. It simply makes no financial sense.
‘The developers are property speculators from Melbourne and their targeting of that block of land represents a low point for the residents of Ewingsdale, whose transport difficulties will be greatly compounded, as will the transport problems generally on that already busy end of Ewingsdale Road.
‘In short, a cynical use of the ‘medical centre’ play by a developer wanting to up-value his block, and get around Council. It’s a real “up-yours” to the Ewingsdale residents and the local medical and pharmacy businesses.’
I don’t know about how everyone else feels, but whoever this doctor is that is quoted in this article, maybe she’s never had to wait for months and months to see a specialist, somewhere other than Byron, as so few medical specialists actually exist here. And as for basic GP services, most doctors are booked out at least 1-2 weeks in advance, and it is becoming harder and harder to see a doctor when you really need one. The reality is that Byron is and always has been way under-catered to as far as medical practitioners, in particular specialists and even the basics, such as a gynecologist, as there has not even been a gynecologist in Byron for at least 20 years that I have lived here. Considering that half of our population are females, this seems to be something that is urgently needed. And as for having to travel 30mins to an hour for basic day-surgery, this is something that is desperately needed here, considering that two hospitals were closed to create the ‘Byron Central Hospital’ which does not even do day surgery, like the previous much smaller Byron Hospital did. YES, we do need specialists in Byron, and we need a day-surgery. It is unreasonable to expect Byron folk to be travelling as far as they have to, just to access the basics. Maybe a brand spanking new specialist centre and day-surgery will actually make a difference to the health and lives of Byron Shire people!
There is a lack of specialists in the extended Byron area and there is a need for day surgery facilities. Attaching it to Byron Central Hospital will create further traffic problems on the already overcrowded Ewingsdale Road. At present the nearest specialist services are either at Ballina, Lismore, Tweed , John F Flynn Robina or Southport. This applies in particular to Heart, Cancer , Immunology , Arthritis and Opthalmology Specialists.
The travelling time can be tiring as well as expensive ( especially if repeated visits are required). Ocean Shores would be an excellent location given its large population.
Also many local Medical Centres have closed their books for new patients and the wait can be up to 2 weeks to see a particular general practitioner.
So there is a need for better medical services in the area, however, in my opinion, next to Byron Central Hospital Is not the optimum location.