Plan to use $10K to draw allied health workers to region
A $10,000 donation could prove to be a key stepping stone in drawing more allied health professionals to Bowen and providing residents with better continuity of care.
The Whitsunday Regional Council voted to donate $10,000 to the Bowen Collinsville Health Action Group to engage a grant writer to apply for federal health funding.
Division 6 Councillor and chairman of the group Mike Brunker gave insight into the committee's bigger vision to bring more allied health professionals to Bowen.
Cr Brunker said the group wanted Bowen to be one of six regional communities set to be selected by the Federal Government for a new pilot project.
It would involve $200,000 to kickstart the health program, followed by $200,000 to implement the plan and then further funding down the track.
Cr Brunker said the Health Action Group had a vision to use the funding to bring more allied health professionals to Bowen, which would act as a central access point for the services.
This would include disciplines such as psychology, speech pathology and podiatry, but would also allow the professionals to service the broader Whitsunday region.
Cr Brunker said at the moment, professionals such as psychologists drove in and out of Townsville to service the community for allocated blocks of time.
But often after six or 12 months, they moved on to a different area.
"Then we have to have another psychologist get to know patients," Cr Brunker said.
"If we can attract allied health professionals it's a lot better for the Whitsundays.
"The two or three psychologists we have here, they're on the board and they're saying please help."
Cr Brunker said the project could run as a private practice or as part of the Mackay Hospital and Health Service, using a space already available in town.
Allied health professionals already working in the region could also take part.
"Every regional and rural community has vacant shops," he said.
"Rather than spending money on bricks and mortar, let's rent something and deck it out.
"At this stage they could be based in Bowen.
"If there's a speechie working at Airlie Beach that wants to join the model we can then give work their way."
Cr Brunker said looking at statistics of the number of Bowen residents taking regular medication had been an eye-opener.
Offering specialised health services in town would also provide better continuity of care, he said.
"Mental health is not the silent killer but it's a silent sickness in town," Cr Brunker said.
"Speech pathologists are just a rarity in our community.
"Most of the time our people have to travel."
During last week's council meeting, Cr Brunker explained the $10,000 donation would be used for a short-term contract of two or three months for a consultant to apply for the federal funds.
"Unfortunately everybody on the committee are working people so we basically need someone to pull everything together with knowledge of the health sphere," he said.
"I would be asking the council to endorse this because I think it would be great for the whole region."
Councillors unanimously voted to provide the donation to the Bowen Collinsville Health Action Group.