The working group tasked with developing sustainable medical care for Babinda met today and progress is being made on making the community’s preferred model a reality.

Mulgrave MP Curtis Pitt said he has been working closely with Cairns and Hinterland Health Service CEO, Julie Hartley-Jones, to ensure that the views of the community have been fully taken into consideration.

“The message at the public meeting was loud and clear. There should be no gap in service provision for the community at Babinda.” Mr Pitt said.

“I’m confident we can achieve this and I’ve consistently made this point in my discussions with Queensland Health officials.

However Mr Pitt said negative comments by some members of the community have not been helpful in trying to reach a sustainable solution for the town.

“I want to put the people’s minds at ease. Although Dr Brian Merlo will finally cease practising at the end of this week, the surgery will not close.

“The State Government gave a commitment today to lease the surgery for the next three months while an independent valuation of the private GP practice is undertaken.

“The community has indicated its desire that Queensland Health takes into consideration the long and dedicated contribution by Dr Merlo when arriving at its offer.

Mr Pitt said also that although a town the size of Babinda usually requires 2.6 doctors to meet the needs of patients at both the hospital and the GP practice, the community will be serviced by three full-time doctors to provide primary and secondary care.

“The community-agreed model will see three doctors – a Medical Superintendent and two Medical Officers – all have right of private practice and will all work across the hospital and the GP practice,” Mr Pitt said.

“The existing medico, Dr Reddy, attended today’s meeting and has been offered a contract that could see him take up one of the positions into the future.

“Although Dr Reddy has strong support from the local community, I reiterate that a solution for future medical services for Babinda is needed, and that it cannot be reliant on any one person.

“The recruitment process gets underway this weekend to fill all three positions. While this process will be completed as quickly as possible, the community is guaranteed the services of a locum doctor until the end of the year.

“The locum, who has worked in Babinda for some time on previous occasions, will start work tomorrow.

Mr Pitt said it was vitally important that the community has faith in the public health system and that the agreed service model would meet the community’s needs.

“There has been a high degree of community consultation throughout this process. The working group was formed to ensure this would be the case,” Mr Pitt said.

“There will be direct and formal opportunity for the local community to be part of the recruitment process. A community member will sit on the decision-making panel.

“I know this is an important issue for residents and I will continue to work with Queensland Health, community representatives and the Far North Queensland Rural Division of General Practice until the

model has been implemented.”