DEAR DOC­TOR

Coun­try vil­lage in the val­ley needs GP with a big heart.

The Coffs Coast Advocate - - FRONT PAGE - Wendy An­drews wendy.an­drews @coff­sco as­tad­vo­cate.com.au

IN ULONG, talk quickly turns to two things – lack of rain and lack of a doc­tor.

While res­i­dents may have to ac­cept the lack of rain, this com­mu­nity is fight­ing hard to find a doc­tor.

Carol Cleary is lead­ing the charge, with the back­ing of the en­tire val­ley com­mu­nity.

“We have done as much as we can to help our­selves,” Carol said.

“Many lo­cals at­tended first aid cour­ses held in our com­mu­nity hall and we now have five first re­spon­ders trained to op­er­ate the de­fib­ril­la­tors.”

When not busy run­ning the lo­cal store/cafe with hus­band Steve, Carol has been pe­ti­tion­ing for a med­i­cal pres­ence in the val­ley. For th­ese coun­try folk, hos­pi­tal and am­bu­lance ser­vices are an hour’s drive down the moun­tain. Un­for­tu­nately, so is ac­cess to a doc­tor or phar­macy.

In a pile of pa­per­work, Carol has a let­ter from North Coast Pri­mary Health that reads in part: “We ac­knowl­edge the en­thu­si­asm and com­mit­ment of the Ulong com­mu­nity in ex­plor­ing lo­cal so­lu­tions for is­sues re­lat­ing to timely ac­cess to med­i­cal ser­vices.

“NCPH is there­fore happy to sup­port your ap­pli­ca­tion in pro­vid­ing fi­nan­cial as­sis­tance to go to­wards set­ting up a clinic space.”

The news is fan­tas­tic but there’s a catch. This is not a case of “build it and they will come”. Ulong has to se­cure the ser­vices of a gen­eral prac­ti­tioner who will ser­vice the out­reach clinic be­fore NCPH will act.

“I’ve sent out let­ters to all the clin­ics across the Coffs Coast,” Carol said.

“Ide­ally this would suit a GP based in Coffs who is part of a med­i­cal clinic. They could see pa­tients out here, maybe one day or morn­ing a week or even a fort­night, and then when needed re­fer them into their clinic in Coffs for tests, treat­ment or fol­low-up ap­point­ments.”

Ulong and sur­round­ing vil­lages in the val­ley con­tain a mix of young fam­i­lies, com­muters, re­tirees, el­derly and peo­ple mak­ing a liv­ing on the land.

No ac­cess to a lo­cal med­i­cal ser­vice has been dif­fi­cult for lo­cals and also a stum­bling block for peo­ple con­sid­er­ing mov­ing there.

“A doc­tor in the val­ley would be giv­ing so much to this com­mu­nity. A GP up here could re­ally con­nect and make such a dif­fer­ence,” Carol said.

“Older mem­bers of our com­mu­nity are be­ing forced to move into Coffs, es­pe­cially if they don’t drive any more.

“We are such a tight com­mu­nity and very so­cial, it’s heart­break­ing for the el­derly to have to leave be­cause we don’t have a GP ser­vice.”

It’s not just the el­derly. Mum of two young chil­dren Katie Sibio said an out­reach clinic would be a gamechanger for lo­cal fam­i­lies.

“Which­ever GP comes to op­er­ate the out­reach clinic, they will be­come our fam­ily doc­tor in a heart­beat. The same would hap­pen with other fam­i­lies,” Katie said.

Tak­ing two young kids for an hour’s drive down the moun­tain to get to a clinic or hos­pi­tal in Coffs, wait­ing around for hours, then driv­ing an hour home for non life-threat­en­ing con­di­tions is some­thing Katie and other lo­cals would love to avoid.

“It’s all the other ser­vices a lo­cal GP could help with too, like pre­ven­ta­tive health and men­tal health is­sues,” Carol said.

“Once the clinic is es­tab­lished, I have pledges from the Women’s Health Clinic who will send nurses up for health checks.

“There has also been in­ter­est from other sec­tors in the med­i­cal field. “It all starts with a GP.” De­tails: Carol Cleary 6654 5320. See more on­line.

A GP up here could re­ally con­nect and make such a dif­fer­ence.

SEARCH IS ON: Me­gan Har­ris, Carol Cleary and Katie Sibio of Ulong are cam­paign­ing for an out­reach clinic.

PHOTO: TREVOR VEALE

WANTED: Are you the GP Ulong is look­ing for? PHOTO: TREVOR VEALE

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