EXTENDED opening hours and bulk billing at the Worrigee Medical Centre will ease pressure on hospitals and allow locals greater access to health care.
The medical centre on Isa Road in Worrigee opened in 2009 with one doctor, one receptionist and one building.
It now has a second building, eight doctors, five nurses and five administrative staff.
The centre launched its extended hours last Monday and will now have a doctor and nurse on site until 9.30pm Mondays to Thursdays, Saturdays 12 noon until 10pm and Sundays 10am until 8pm.
Practice principal Annette Pham, who owns the surgery with husband Dr Hao Pham, said it was the first after-hours service in Nowra.
“This means people who work, who have young children and people who would otherwise have attended casualty will have the option of coming here,” she said.
“We hope to take the pressure off the emergency services and hospitals.
“It’s been quite expensive to set up but the health benefits make it all worth it.”
It will also give people who have no regular doctor the chance to have their health managed by the after-hours doctor, Dr Jurate Rudmaniene.
No appointment is necessary, patients are bulk-billed and it doesn’t matter if it is not their usual surgery.
Mrs Pham said the biggest barriers to health care in the area were closed books and affordability.
“Many people don’t know how to access affordable care. We are trying to promote this for everyone,” she said.
The centre has a strong commitment to bulk-billing patients to make care affordable, a philosophy which partly came out of personal tragedy.
“Hao’s father was shot during the Vietnam war,” Mrs Pham said.
“In Vietnam they had to pay for healthcare and because his family was poor, they couldn’t afford it.
“He died from non-fatal wounds.”
The practice is one of four belonging to the Shoalhaven Family Medical Centres, with others in Basin View, Culburra Beach and Vincentia.
The Worrigee centre is something of a one-stop-shop with everything from dietary services, mental health nurses, psychiatry, psychology, podiatry, women’s health, telehealth consultations and diabetes education and ongoing training for medical staff.