After almost 40 years of serving the community, the Curalo Medical Clinic in Eden on the Far South Coast looks almost certain to close.
Practice Manager, Judy Thompson, told East Coast Radio that two doctors have left the clinic and another is set to retire in the middle of this year.
“One left to go home to Finland for personal reasons and the other went to another practice,” Ms Thompson said.
“So we went from having four to now having two doctors with Dr Michael Pentin (one of the two pictured above) set to retire this year, after wanting to do so for the last couple of years, he’s just sort of hanging in there in the hope that we can source another doctor to keep the clinic going but at this stage it’s looking pretty grim but it’s looking grim around the country and that’s the problem too,” Ms Thompson said.
“I’d say there’s a 90% chance we will close, we’re clinging on in the hope a miracle will happen but at this stage it’s getting quite desperate,” she said.
The clinic managed to secure the services of a locum (temporary) doctor, Dr Jasmine Ventura, for three to six months, meaning the clinic currently have three doctors on the books but once the Dr Ventura departs and Dr Pentin retires, it would be left with just one GP, Dr Sampsa Kallinen, to service around 3,800 active patients, which is impossible.
Ms Thompson said three to four doctors are needed to make the practice viable but one new doctor could mean the difference between staying open and closing for good which would result in a loss of jobs for the 11 staff that work there and the loss of the only medical clinic in Eden taking new patients.
“Ideally we get three to four new doctors but we really just need one fully qualified doctor (to work alongside Dr Kallinen)then they’re able to supervise registrars (doctor in training) and we could try and source some registrars to work underneath them,” Ms Thompson said.
It was hoped the clinic could be saved by a new financial model, based on the Bendigo Bank community ownership idea and run by Creators (Creators of Community Ownership).
A $60,000 donation was given by the Pambula and Bega Bendigo Community Bank to support the enterprise back in June 2023 however Director, April Merrick, told East Coast Radio their plan allowed long-serving GP Michael Pentin to retire but finding at least three replacement doctors was just not possible for them to run the business side of the clinic as they had hoped.
“We are looking to help the clinic in anyway we can though,” Ms Merrick said.
Practice Manager, Ms Thompson said they’ve reached out to State Member Dr Michael Holland and Federal Member Kristy McBain for assistance but the same thing was happening everywhere.
“What’s holding everything up is that it’s happening all over the country, we’re not a special clinic if you know what I mean, and I’ve heard there’s one in Jindabyne that’s an impending closure as well for the same reasons,” Ms Thompson said.
“There’s so many doctors looking to retire, that have run clinics for 30 years all around the area and we haven’t got the new doctors coming in,” she said.
Ms Thompson put out a call to arms out to the South Coast community to help them find a doctor.
“If you know anyone that’s a GP, a friend, family member who might want to have a beautiful work-life balance in the country and come and work alongside a wonderful team, please put the word out.”
One of the Curalo staff members put this message out via social media.
“We are looking at potentially closing due to the shortage of GPs in our rural practice, just like so many other rural clinics around Australia, so I’m shouting out to all my friends if you know of someone whether it be a GP/GP’s or millionaire wanting to make a difference in this beautiful part of the country or simply wanting a sea change and slower pace of life, please reach out, we need you.”
Images: Google Maps, Curalo Medical Clinic