Mackellar Care Services is poised to purchase the Gunnedah Rural Health Centre (GRHC) and is hopeful of having the doors open before Christmas.
On Thursday, Mackellar Care’s chief executive officer, Sandra Strong, and board member, John Perkins, confirmed that Hunter New England Health (HNEH) delivered a lease for the building and land on Tuesday, which is now in the hands of the board’s legal team. Mackellar Care is now waiting on the seal of approval from the federal government, so it can deliver services.
The CEO said Mackellar Care had hoped to occupy the building by October 1 but with the delays of red tape, she said the board now expects it to happen in late-October or early-November.
A chief medical officer is already in place, and a number of applicants have been shortlisted for a variety of jobs, with letters to go out.
“The period of time that it’s taken to get to this point has been a concern to us because we wanted to try and get the super clinic up and running well before Christmas and each day went by, it’s very difficult to get people to move here or move anywhere to a new job before Christmas. But at this stage we are still hopeful," Mrs Strong said.
“We’ve had enquiry from seven doctors, actually, who are interested in what we are doing in the clinic ad we’ve had enquiries from Allied Health staff as well from the services that will be able to be provided to the community.”
In a statement to the Namoi Valley Independent, Susan Heyman, executive director of Rural and Regional Health Services, said the lease was now up for review and endorsement.
“Hunter New England Health has not altered the terms and conditions of the lease, we did however ask for written assurances that Mackellar Care Services will participate in the hospital’s on-call roster and offer bulk billing for the benefit of the community,” Ms Heyman said.
“Throughout this entire process we have worked as quickly as possible but given previous provider issues, we have a responsibility to carry out the necessary checks and balances to ensure the Gunnedah community has a reliable and equitable health service.”
Mrs Strong said Mackellar Care was excited to have “equitable access” to the emergency roster at Gunnedah District Hospital.
The CEO said she was grateful for the support of Member for Tamworth, Kevin Anderson, and Member for Parkes, Mark Coulton.
Mr Coulton said his office was speaking to the Department of Health on Wednesday.
“My understanding in speaking to the federal department [of health] was that it is working through the funding agreement and I’ve been assured that the department is seeing this as a priority and they are getting that agreement ready as soon as possible,” he said.
“I’m very pleased to see that this is on the point of being resolved.
“It’s a magnificent facility and I’m confident Mackellar Care can make sure it is operational with the role in which it was intended.”