MEDICAL centre staff (from left) Dr Craig Russell, receptionist Noeline Hughes, practice manager Jenny Horsley and Indigenous h
MEDICAL centre staff (from left) Dr Craig Russell, receptionist Noeline Hughes, practice manager Jenny Horsley and Indigenous h

Lismore surgery first of its kind

By JANE GARDNER

jgardner@northernstar.com.au

A NEW Goonellabah doctors' surgery is being touted as the first of its kind in Australia.

Built with private money, the bulk-billing Meridian Health Centre on Rous Road will soon house up to seven doctors, a podiatrist, an ante-natal service and two day surgery rooms ? with a focus on Aboriginal and financially disadvantaged patients.

However, the clinic currently has its books open to anyone.

It has operated in a temporary area for three weeks and is home to one of a handful of Aboriginal doctors in Australia, Dr Craig Russell.

Dr Russell is so passionate about the venture he commutes from Toowoomba every week to see his growing list of patients.

"My mob is originally Bundjalung and I have always loved this area," Dr Russell said.

"This clinic has been running so well so far that I feel it's meant to be."

The North Coast is home to about 100,000 Aboriginal people, almost one fifth of the Indigenous population in Australia.

Community-established clinics are available to them, however this will be the first privately-funded health service of its kind aimed directly at Aboriginal health.

Although Dr Russell is on his own at present, the new clinic is equipped for seven doctors. Five part-time doctors are expected to join the surgery to begin with.

It will be completed in six to eight weeks and a dental service is expected to be running by the end of the year.

There are 35 Aboriginal doctors in Australia, most of them working in research.

Dr Russell is one of a small number in general practice.

He believes Indigenous people need to be treated with a degree of cultural awareness to create trust.

"There wouldn't be too many Aboriginal people who haven't had a traumatic and horrifying childhood," he said.

"We need to look at healing their spirit as well, so they can go out there and achieve.

"Then the sky is the limit."



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