If you?re living in East Ballina, don?t get sick
By DAWN COHEN
SINCE East Ballina Medical Centre folded just before Christmas Dr David Havill has been turning away up to 20 patients a day.
"Our receptionists tell me we are inundated," said the Ballina-based general practitioner.
"We can't take new patients because if we overbook we become inefficient."
East Ballina's only general practice closed because no-one wanted to take over when owner Dr Marlene Pacy moved to the Gold Coast.
More than 1000 patients have been left stranded.
Many are elderly and cannot find doctors in town with vacancies, said East Ballina pharmacist Kim Proudfoot.
Of seven Ballina medical practices contacted by The Northern Star over the holidays, three were closed and only one had vacancies.
That service did not want to be named for fear of being stampeded.
Dr Hilton Koppe has been forced to refuse new patients who do not live in his practice location of Lennox Head, following the demand from Ballina.
"We didn't take the decision lightly," he said.
Dr Havill, who has worked in the area for 19 years, said the situation was worsening.
"People are told to go to the hospital, but that is an unsatisfactory use of the emergency department."
Ballina's plight is not bad enough, however, to warrant special attention in comparison with inland areas of the Northern Rivers, according to Northern Rivers Division of General Practice chief executive officer Chris Clark.
"Ballina has one doctor for every 970 people," he said.
"One general practitioner per 900 is considered acceptable.
"In some rural areas patients have to drive for an hour to find a doctor."
n Mullumbimby: One GP for every 420 residents
n Ballina: One for every 970 residents
n Byron Bay: One for every 716 residents
n Bangalow: One for every 838 residents
n Evans Head: One for every 909 residents
n Casino: One for every 1001 residents
n Lismore: One for every 1183 residents
n Brunswick Heads/Ocean Shores: One for every 1357 residents
n Iluka: One for every 1650 residents
n Kyogle: One for every 1649 residents
n Woodburn: One for every 1656 residents
n Yamba: One for every 1734 residents
Figures provided by the Northern Rivers Division of General Practice. They do not take into account tourists or the absence of doctors during holiday periods.