Local doctors' super clinic snub

LOCAL doctors are "extremely disappointed" their bid to run Lismore's super clinic has been rejected by the Federal Government - so far without explanation.

Federal Health Minister Nicola Roxon yesterday awarded the $7 million contract to Brisbane-based Meridian Health Care, which runs a clinic at the Rous Rd shopping centre in Goonellabah.

Northern Rivers General Practice Network chair Dr Tony Lembke said he found the decision difficult to understand.

"We proposed a not-for-profit venture that would provide super clinic-integrated services to benefit all the Lismore community, no matter which general practice they and their family choose for their ongoing medical care," Dr Lembke said.

"We also made a commitment to after-hours doctor services.

"It was to be next to the hospital to relieve some pressure on the emergency department, especially after hours (and) it would have built on our current work in training new doctors and nurses.

"Our application was supported by the local health district, the university, local GPs and our local politicians."

Page MP Janelle Saffin said that while she was pleased Lismore would now get a super clinic, it was no secret she had hoped the local doctors' network would win the contract, but hoped Meridian could now collaborate with local health professionals.

"It was an independent departmental process that I was not able to influence," she said.

Local GP Dr Richard Deaker warned the commercial model risked damaging long-standing local services and said many of his colleagues feared the super clinic could force them out of town.

"In other towns there has been great difficulty staffing new super clinics (and) many rely on fly-in, fly-out doctors who do not have a long-term commitment to the communities in which they work," Dr Deaker said.

Goonellabah GP Dr Andrew Binns described the decision as "bewildering", given the network's familiarity with local patient needs.

"Our local knowledge and experience evidently counted for very little," he said.

Ms Roxon's office said it was an "arm's length" process which found Meridian "better met the criteria".

"We are very confident that they will deliver a high-quality service to the local community," a spokesman said.

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