Kurri Kurri has one of the worst GP ratios in the country, but not for much longer.
The suburb is about to become a hub of GPs and medical training with the establishment of a community healthcare centre at Kurri Kurri Hospital that will be funded with a $2 million federal government grant.
The centre will be modelled on Cessnock Community Healthcare – a not-for-profit organisation which started in 2004 – and complement the existing services of the hospital and GPs practicing in the area.
Community Healthcare director Gavin Rose said people had been asking for a centre in Kurri Kurri since the Cessnock branch was established and many patients who used the Cessnock centre travelled from Kurri.
“The centre will have GPs, nurses and allied health workers and offer bulk billing,” he said.
“It will also support the training of new doctors, nurses and allied health staff, which is vital for our growing area.
“The Hunter Expressway will make Kurri more of a service hub for the Upper Hunter and we need to be able to cater for the demand.”
Mr Rose said the addition of a GP service at the hospital would take the pressure off the emergency department, with patients able to see a GP where appropriate.
“It will free up emergency staff so they can focus on emergencies,” he said.
Mr Rose consulted with the hospital about the possibility of building the centre on the hospital grounds for the convenience of patients.
A deal was struck to move the hospital’s administration to a disused building near the emergency ward and house the healthcare centre in the former administration building.
“It is situated right out the front of the hospital so it is easy for people to see and access,” Mr Rose said.
Both buildings will be refurbished with the funding, which was allocated in round two of the health and hospitals grant last week.
The project has been in the pipeline since January 2011 but the lack of funds had held it back until now.
The centre is expected to open in mid 2013.