THE new Urbenville Medical Centre opened to fanfare last Wednesday as officials and residents celebrated the new facility which will hopefully secure medical services for the town and surrounds.
Tenterfield Shire Council initially received a federal grant of $295,455 in 2006 to upgrade the old facility, a converted house, but this was eventually deemed unfeasible according to council’s business and social development officer Harry Bolton.
“When we started to look at the renovations needed to meet the Australian medical standard, it was going to cost a lot of money,” he said.
“The doctors were grossly unhappy with the situation, and debating whether to remain. The whole situation wasn’t good.”
The estimated $400,000 investment in renovations to upgrade a building worth $160,000 was deemed uneconomical and the decision was made to move to a “green field” site and sell the old premises to redeem some of the additional investment required.
The husband-and-wife team of Doctors Philip Chalmers and Caroline May had moved from Sydney and taken over the practice with the expectation that the working conditions would be improved.
When the decision was made to start from scratch, it took time to find a site and undertake necessary earthworks, Mr Bolton said. Severe weather conditions interrupted construction when it did begin last year.
The project was completed in May with the medical practice now happily ensconced in the new premises.
“It was a great outcome for Urbenville and the hospital there,” Mr Bolton said.
“Otherwise we risked losing those doctors. As it is the doctors are now taking on trainee medical students and mentoring other students.
“It’s the project that had to happen to retain doctors. That centre can now provide medical services for the next 50 years and beyond.”
Deputy Mayor Peter Petty made the initial speech and thanked the many staff and community members involved in the project, saying it was a true partnership project with council contributing half of the funds required.
Cr Petty introduced the Federal Member for Page, Janelle Saffin, who officiated on behalf of Federal Minister for Health, Tanya Plibersek.
“The upgraded Urbenville Medical Centre has modern consulting rooms for two doctors and a practice nurse,” she said. “It will now provide an expanded variety of health services – including mental health, physiotherapy, diabetes and skin clinics, and outreach health services every fortnight to the local Muli Muli Indigenous community.
“This modern medical centre will serve the Urbenville and local community well into the future, and provide a great incentive towards recruiting doctors and allied health professionals.”
Colleen Scofield, president of the Urbenville Progress Association, said the centre was going to be a major asset, saving Urbenville from finding itself in the same situation as Bonalbo with no doctors.
She said credit was due to the Tenterfield Shire Council for its ongoing support and for securing the grant.