The Smithton Doctor’s Surgery on King Street has changed hands, and it could mean a new lease of life for the practice that has previously struggled to retain doctors.
Ochre Health officially took control of the practice on May 25 but the day to day running of the practice will remain largely the same for new and existing patients.
“Most of the systems will stay pretty much the same as they are,” said Chairman and Co-Founder Ross Lamplugh.
“Fundamentally we don’t go into a well known practice and change up the system.”
Dr Tony Popiel will remain the senior doctor at the practice and will continue to do so with a stronger support network from Ochre.
“Tony has worked unbelievably hard for a long long time. He has been a great support and a leader and will continue to do so until he is keen to take a step back,” said Ross.
The admin staff will also remain the same, with Sue Burke to continue on as Practice Manager.
“Sue is absolutely incredible and she has agreed to stay on and be the practice manager on the site.”
Increasing the number of available appointments and taking the pressure off the local doctors is the number one priority, with two locum doctors, or temporary doctors, to help maintain a high level of service in the community.
Ochre are working towards replacing the locums with permanent staff, but Ross says that there is more to it than finding a qualified GP.
“It’s not just about getting doctors, it’s about recruiting the right doctors and giving them the best support to ensure they can provide a high quality level of care.”
The organisation is equipped with two different recruiting businesses, with as many as 25 staff working hard to put doctors into suitable jobs in rural practices.
“Our recruiting businesses will be mining through our databases as much as possible to find the perfect doctor for Smithton,” said Ross.
“It’s not going to happen in five minutes but I’d really hope that in 18 months to two years numbers would replenish to what they were in [the practice’s] hay days.”
The long term goal is to have seven full time doctors working across the practice and Smithton District Hospital, taking pressure off the existing doctors, making appointments more accessible and creating local jobs.
“The permanent staff in the practice will be gradually increased as the doctors numbers increases.”
Ross admired Dr Popiel for his commitment to doing whatever he has to to service the community’s needs.
“Full credit to Tony, he has had the best interest of the community at heart through everything and he understands that he has struggled to recruit doctors at times,” he said.
“The bottom line is that the practice that Tony has been running has been doing a great job for a number of years and we are hoping that with our size we can continue what he is doing and hopefully enhance further using our reach and our capacity.”