Winmalee medical centre back on agenda

A new medical centre at Winmalee is back on the radar.

In August 2011 the Blue Mountains City Council approved a 10-doctor centre to be built in White Cross Rd in Winmalee at a time when there was a chronic GP shortage.

But the public health company which planned on leasing the building couldn’t get sufficient doctors to make the 10-room practice viable, so the centre didn’t get off the ground.  

Now, landowners Barry and Betty Haworth have decided to downscale the original submission to a five-doctor centre, using two land lots instead of three, with the potential to expand the number of doctors if demand requires.

Mr Haworth expected if the new application was approved by council, that building would begin in July next year, with the new facility open in early 2015.

One doctor keen for the facility to be built is neighbouring doctor Anthony Vial of White Cross Health Centre.

He had planned on shifting to the Balance! Health Care GP superclinic in Springwood in January, but has elected instead to stay put in his practice he has operated for 10 years, until the new medical clinic is opened.

Joining a smaller centre and remaining in the Winmalee community would suit him, he said.

“What swayed me was the amount of people — the community support — people want me here,” Dr Vial said.

He only considered joining the Springwood superclinic after losing his home during the October bushfires and shutting his practice for two weeks while he sorted the housing situation and supported his two children.

“I realised it was difficult to be a solo doctor when at times like this you need the support of other health professionals ... it’s important to have back-up facilities in place,” Dr Vial said.

For the two-week closure Dr Michael de Vries of Winmalee Medical Centre saw Dr Vial’s patients, for which Dr Vial was extremely grateful.

Losing everything hasn’t been easy, but he has managed thanks to the overwhelming generosity of the community that donated goods and time for cleaning the house Dr Vial and his kids moved into.

“We grow stronger by these challenges,” Dr Vial said. 

“For me personally, it’s a sign that you’ve got to enjoy life and work to live, keep it simple.

“Family and love and community, that’s the real meaning of life.”

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