Huon Valley Health Centre (HVHC) directors and GPs Bastian and Alex Seidel said that the future of their practice in Cygnet is safe, despite the failure to secure ownership of the council-owned George Street Cygnet Medical Centre building.
Council announced last week that the expression of interest (EOI) process to secure a buyer for the centre had been unsuccessful, and Bastian and Alex said that, in the face of community sentiment against the sale, their company had withdrawn its EOI at the beginning of 2020.
HVHC initially moved into the premises in early 2017 on a five-year lease arrangement, utilising another building that they had purchased in Mary Street to establish allied health services.
“I think the feedback at that time was really good, and I don’t think there’s any concern there now,” said Dr Seidel.
“We just got the latest patient survey results back and I don’t think the doctors and nurses or practice management team there can do any better, so we are pretty pleased.
“There’s always three doctors and a nurse there as well as the reception staff, so that works really well.”
When the sale process began and sentiment clearly indicated that a sale was not something that many in the community wanted, Dr Seidel said that it became difficult for staff at the Centre.
“For the staff and the doctors, who all live in the community, it wasn’t easy,” said Dr Seidel.
“We want to supply clinical care, that’s the reality for us, we just want to make it work and then to constantly be drawn into the shenanigans be- tween council and community groups, I don’t think was a positive experience for us.”
Dr Seidel said that, in the end, it was clear that community sentiment was not going to change, and they decided to withdraw their EOI.
“We were advised that there was more than one EOI submitted, so we always knew there was potentially someone else who was going to buy it, but we decided to accept the risk.
“If someone else was to buy it and we had a vacate notice, so be it, we can still provide a great service from our Mary Street premises.”
Dr Seidel said that the value of a purpose built medical facility is not in the building, but in the service that is offered there - and a consistent and reliable medical service in a rural area is difficult to sustain in the current environment, but he said he is proud of the service that he and Alex have been able to build over their last 10 years in the Huon Valley.
He said that telehealth services had worked well during the COVID-19 emergency and it would potentially continue into the future, meaning less reliance on physical premises for medical staff.
HVHC is planning to continue to grow the services they offer in the Huon Valley through self-funded upgrades and expansions.
“We are the only practice in the Huon Valley that trains intern doctors and we always had general practice trainees, in fact that’s what we are most proud of, we attract young doctors we can train and, if we are lucky, they will stay,” said Dr Seidel.
“But even if they move back to Hobart, they’ve had valuable experience.
“We have always done this and we are expanding this programme now.
“We have plans for the Huonville practice to shift towards a more acute care model, to rebuild again to make sure we have a dedicated area where we can see real emergencies, and a separated procedure room where people can have skin procedures done.
“It will be so much easier to accommodate patients who come in with stroke, heart attacks or are brought in by ambulance.
“We plan to have ultrasound services there, so we have a broader scope and hopefully then attract people who want to specialise in those emergency skills.”
The HVHC lease on the Cygnet Medical Centre is valid until 2022.
“It’s a commercial lease, there’s an expiry date on that and we haven’t been approached by council to amend that,” said Dr Seidel.
“It’s just a standard contract that can be cancelled with provisions.
“We are mindful of that, and I think council is mindful of that as well, that’s just the way it is now.”