East Devonport Medical Centre closure would be ‘catastrophic’, says health consumer group

This article appeared in the Mercury newspaper on November 30 2023

East Devonport Medical Centre closure would be ‘catastrophic’, says health consumer group

The state’s peak health consumer group has weight into the debate around an impending GP closure debate, saying that “primary care in Tasmania is no longer working the way it should”.

Simon McGuire

Health Consumers Tasmania has expressed dismay over the impending closure of the East Devonport Medical Centre (EDMC).

The clinic is set to shut its doors in February, with owners saying GP shortages contributed to the decision.

The medical centre will merge with SmartClinics Devonport on the other side of the Mersey River.

Health Consumers Tasmania CEO Bruce Levett said the closure would have a massive impact on the East Devonport community.

“The pending closure of the EDMC is catastrophic for those people who currently use that centre,” Mr Levett said.

“This is happening so frequently that it’s clear we’re in the midst of a crisis.

“GP clinics in St Marys, Campbell Town, Evandale, Beaconsfield and Westbury all face closure and the practice at Ouse closed its books last year.

“Primary care in Tasmania is no longer working the way it should, and it is no longer suitable for the Tasmanian environment.

“Tasmanians desperately need a new way for primary healthcare to be delivered in their communities, when they need it.”

Mr Levett called on the state and federal governments to work together to ensure GP clinics around the state stayed open.

“Our government has been working proactively with the community and health representatives and will continue to do so,” Mr Barnett said.

“We’re focused on innovative solutions to ensure Tasmanians get the right healthcare, in the right place, at the right time, and that is exactly what I’m looking forward to discussing at the roundtable.

“It’s pleasing to see East Devonport community members, stakeholders and decision-makers coming together to focus on solutions rather than problems.”

Mr Levett said he was encouraged by the roundtable.

“We also ask that GP clinics show respect to the Tasmanian communities and provide proper notice of their intentions – they are not a retail store, they provide a critical community service that people depend on.

“Given they receive Government subsidies through the MBS, there needs to be a better process to ensure the community is looked after and respected.

“To find solutions, we need to involve all health professionals and develop new ways of delivering the services that the community needs and deserves.

“This will require new thinking, new legislation and new ways of funding healthcare and this won’t happen unless all stakeholders work together.”

Federal Health Minister Mark Butler said it remained “focused on ensuring patients continue to have access to a GP in the Devonport community and will work with the provider, the local government and state government to do this”.

The decision to close the EDMC has also drawn the ire of Labor and Devonport Mayor Alison Jarman.

“The only remaining doctor here will go to the new clinic to take on 6000 clients from here at a medical clinic that’s already closed its books,” Ms Jarman said.

“It doesn’t make sense.”

Ms Jarman said there would be a rally to save the EDMC at Pioneer Park on December 3 at 11.30am.