THE latest addition to the health precinct in Nowra has opened its doors.
The $7 million Grand Pacific Health (GPH) Centre, located between Shoalhaven District Hospital and the South Coast Cancer Care Centre, has taken its first patients.
The Shoalhaven Wellness Centre welcomed its first patients on Monday, with the first GP patient scheduled for next Monday.
Dr Richard Griffiths is the first GP to sign on with the project, with a registrar due in August.
The centre will be managed by Charise Morris.
Initial plans for the centre were unveiled in 2010, funding was secured in 2011 and the first sod was turned just over a year ago.
Medicare Local Illawarra-Shoalhaven corporate service general manager Ron de Jongh said the centre would host to a range of high-quality, comprehensive and integrated primary care services.
“The centre is aimed at addressing the health care needs and priorities of the local community,” he said.
“Patients will have access to GPs, nurses, allied health professionals, visiting medical specialists and other health services, including the Shoalhaven Wellness Centre, all in the one location.”
Pathology and psychological services will also be available but Mr de Jongh said attracting staff to the centre had been a challenge.
“I don’t know why but a lot of medical practitioners don’t want to come to the area,” he said.
“It is hard to get people out of Sydney.
“I can’t understand it, when we have a facility like this and such a beautiful area to live and work.”
A staff of 25 will work at the centre.
“As well as delivering clinical services, the centre will also be a teaching facility, with the University of Wollongong occupying part of the building, with registrars, medical students and nursing students all able to gain valuable experience,” Mr de Jongh said.
“The services offered at the centre will be determined by the community and its needs.
“We will be guided by what the community requirements are and by talking to other medical practitioners and health professionals as to what is required.
“This is never going to become a giant GP clinic, where we will have 10 GPs all working at the one time.
“We aim to be able to provide GP service but also other specialties and with help from the local health district I believe we can achieve that.
“We have spoken with two local radiography firms and Southern IML has come on board with pathology, which will be carried out on site.”
Mr de Jongh said the centre would also help ease the demand on the emergency department of Shoalhaven Hospital, which is often flooded by patients who could be easily treated by a GP.
The centre will be open from 8.30am to 6pm but will be available until 9pm and some weekends.
It is anticipated 80 per cent of patients would be bulk billed.
“The vast majority of our patients will be bulk billed, but those who can afford to pay will do so,” he said.
Patients with concession cards, children under 16 and Department of Veterans Affairs will all be bulk billed.
Mr de Jongh said the “stunning building” was designed by local architect firm Edmiston Jones and was inspired by the works of famous Shoalhaven artist Arthur Boyd and the flora and fauna of the local area.
The centre’s official opening is planned for June.