Member for Mulgrave Curtis Pitt is hopeful that a working group featuring representatives from Queensland Health and the local community will help to chart the course for the future of medical services in Babinda.

Mr Pitt said the attraction of a doctor to service both the Babinda Hospital and the community as a GP was an important issue to residents during the March election campaign and that has not changed.

“I wrote to the Deputy Premier and Minister for Health Paul Lucas on this issue in May. Last week, I met with Minister Lucas and the Director-General of Health to continue to push the case,” Mr Pitt said.

“Locally, I have been working closely with Julie Hartley-Jones, District Chief Executive Officer Queensland Health and this work has resulted in the formation of the working group.”

Mr Pitt said the working group will meet this Friday 11 September and comprised representatives from:

  • Queensland Health (including Rural Inpatient Services, Office of Rural & Remote Health, Babinda Hospital and Innisfail Hospital)
  • Queensland Ambulance Service
  • Rural Division of GPs
  • Commonwealth Funding Unit
  • Babinda Taskforce
  • Babinda Health Community Network
  • Babinda Chamber of Commerce
  • Babinda Lions Club

“The working group meeting provides an opportunity to put on the table current concerns and issues with the existing medical service and look at community expectation and demands into the future.

“Ultimately we are all keen to have a safe, appropriate and sustainable model of care for the Babinda community for the future. This working group is a great start.

Mr Pitt said that Babinda Health Network Committee had written to him to throw their support behind current hospital medico Dr Anila Reddy.

“Dr Reddy is very popular and has strong support from the local community to gain a permanent contract position,” Mr Pitt said.

“However it is important to remember that the final model needs to be a broader solution for future medical services for Babinda, not based on an individual.

“It is not acceptable that a community the size of Babinda still faces the issue of rotational service by doctors sourced from Cairns to cover the needs of the hospital.

“Given the shortage of doctors generally, the attraction of a suitable candidate will be a big ask, but it is in the best interests of Queensland Health to have permanency for its hospital doctor.

“It is also in the best interest of the Babinda community if that doctor is granted right of private practice.

“I’ll be attending a community meeting on 22 September at the Spirit of Babinda Hall to meet with all interested local residents about this very important matter.”

Long-serving local GP Dr Brian Merlo who has been both at the hospital and in private practice for many years is suffering ill health and is unable to continue his practice, nor has he been able to sell it.

The community meeting will be held at the Spirit of Babinda Hall from 7.30pm.