[singlepic id=142 w=320 h=240 float=left]Queensland Health has agreed to purchase the Babinda private GP practice to fulfil a commitment to the community to guarantee the future of the town’s medical services.

Member for Mulgrave Curtis Pitt said the purchase of the late Dr Brian Merlo’s practice would ensure that medical cover continued to be provided to the local community.

“A commitment was made to the Babinda community in November last year that the Queensland Government would purchase the private practice after the retirement of Dr Merlo due to ill health,” Mr Pitt said.

“Since the retirement last year of the late Dr Merlo medical cover at the private practice has been provided by Queensland Health locum doctors from Babinda Hospital.

“The community indicated at a meeting last September that the preferred model for sustainable medical care is an integrated and collaborative approach between the public and the private health systems, providing both primary and secondary care.

“The purchase of Dr Merlo’s practice will enable us to deliver this service to the community and respect the legacy of his long years of service to Babinda.

“I would like to pay particular tribute to the late Dr Merlo, who provided the Babinda community with more than 30 years of dedicated service.

“As well as being the community’s GP, Dr Merlo also was the Medical Superintendent at Babinda Hospital for 25 years, before retiring from that position in December 2005.

“Even after his resignation, Dr Merlo continued to provide ward rounds and other services to Babinda Hospital for a number of months until a replacement could be found.

“But that’s the kind of man he was — always generous and always willing to serve.

“Dr Merlo was also a great advocate for Babinda, and was especially vigorous in promoting improvement in health services for the community,” Mr Pitt said.

Cairns and Hinterland Health Service District Executive Director, Rural Inpatient Services, Terry Johnson said in addition, as part of the commitment to develop sustainable medical services at Babinda, Queensland Health last year undertook to recruit three full-time doctors to service the needs of the Babinda community and hospital.

“These doctors were to be a Medical Superintendent with Right of Private Practice and two Medical Officers with Right of Private Practice who would work in both the public and private sector, providing medical cover at the GP practice and at Babinda Hospital,” she said.

“An analysis by Queensland Health of the actual medical workforce requirements for Babinda – to cover both the public and private sectors – indicated this could be done with the appointment of just 2.6 Full Time Equivalent doctors.

“However, Queensland Health decided to recruit three full-time doctors to ensure all the community’s needs were met.

“A member of the Babinda community was invited to participate in the recruitment and selection process.

“I am now pleased to announce that Dr Amador Ibanez-Almarche has been appointed as Medical Superintendent with Right of Private Practice at Babinda. He will be taking up his new position on July 1.

“Dr Ibanez-Almarche currently is a Senior Medical Officer at Mareeba Hospital.

“Finalisation of the recruitment for the remaining two Medical Officer with Right of Private Practice positions is underway,” she said.

Mr Pitt said the agreement to purchase the private practice and recruitment of doctors had been the result of a group effort by a number of parties.

“This outcome was achieved through close collaboration between myself, the Cairns and Hinterland Health Service District, the Babinda Community, the Merlo family, the Office of Rural and Remote Health and the Far North Queensland Rural Division of General Practice,” Mr Pitt said.

“I would like to thank everyone involved for helping to achieve this excellent outcome for the Babinda community.

“The purchase of his practice by Queensland Health and the securing of medical services for the Babinda community into the future are a fitting memorial to Dr Merlo’s years of dedicated service,” Mr Pitt said.

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