Hunter New England Health delivers lease to Mackellar Care Services over Gunnedah Rural Health Centre's future

HUNTER New England Health (HNEH) has confirmed it delivered a lease to Mackellar Care Services over the future of the Gunnedah Rural Health Centre this morning.

In a statement to the Namoi Valley Independent, Susan Heyman, Executive Director of Rural and Regional Health Services, said the lease was now up for review and endorsement.

“Hunter New England Health has prepared the terms of the Deed of Assignment of Lease and the Deed has been delivered to Mackellar Care Services and Gunnedah Rural Health Limited (In Liquidation) for review and endorsement,” Ms Heyman said.

“Hunter New England Health has not altered the terms and conditions of the lease, we did however ask for written assurances that Mackellar Care Services will participate in the hospital’s on-call roster and offer bulk billing for the benefit of the community.

“Throughout this entire process we have worked as quickly as possible but given previous provider issues, we have a responsibility to carry out the necessary checks and balances to ensure the Gunnedah community has a reliable and equitable health service.”

It’s understood the Commonwealth also needs to give it the seal of approval.

Pressure mounting over decision

This morning’s breakthrough follows mounting pressure on the state and federal governments to make a decision on the future of the GRHC late last week.

The $6.2 million clinic has been without a doctor since July 12 – just five days after the GRHC board appointed Alan Hayes, of Hayes Advisory, as voluntary administrator.

Mr Hayes put forward a proposal to the state and federal governments in August that outlined Mackellar Care Services as the preferred party to operate from the clinic, which would see creditors be returned 100 cents to the dollar.

But a decision is yet to be made, despite the Mackellar Care board confirming it had completed its due diligence requirements and was prepared to commence re-establishing the GP Super Clinic services from October 3.

Mackellar Care chair John Perkins said it had commenced recruiting doctors and staff, and had plans in place to re-open the GRHC from the end of October. 

“However, Hunter New England Health (HNEH) at the eleventh hour advised us that they were going to review the conditions that the lease was reassigned to Mackellar Care which has resulted in ongoing delays,” he said.

“Mackellar Care has had a very strong position that our offer was conditional on the reassignment of the lease with the same terms and conditions that GRHC were provided.”

Mackellar Care CEO Sandra Strong said the organisation was committed to funding the deficits of the operation of the centre in the short term. 

“Our concern is that HNEH has wanted to alter the conditions of the reassignment, which will make it more difficult for Mackellar Care to operate the centre,” Mrs Strong said.

“Mackellar Care is committed to working collegially with HNEH as part of the local health support network. 

“As soon as we are given the right to occupy the building, my team and I will be working as quickly as we can to re-establish the GP services in the Rural Health Centre.

“We have GPs who are willing to move to Gunnedah but we cannot secure their services as we do not have a building to operate out of.”

Gunnedah mayor Jamie Chaffey is calling for a decision to be made quickly.

“Due diligence has been completed by Mackellar Care and now we just need to move forward and provide an outcome for our community, who have been heavily inconvenienced by the lack of access to health care,” Cr Chaffey said.

“All parties are waiting on confirmation from HNEH that they will commit to reassign the lease with the same conditions that Gunnedah Rural Health were provided.”

More to come.