West Belconnen Health Co-Op

I spoke in Parliament yesterday about the terrific work of the West Belconnen Health Co-Op in Charnwood and the Belconnen town centre.

West Belconnen Health Cooperative
Andrew Leigh MP
26 October 2010

I rise today to inform the House about some terrific progress being made by the West Belconnen Health Cooperative in Charnwood. Earlier this year the local community owned and professionally managed health co-op opened. I had the pleasure of recently visiting the health co-op and I was shown around by Michael Pilbrow, the current Chair of the West Belconnen Health Cooperative. The co-op began providing a bulk-billing GP medical service from a centre in Charnwood which served one of the more disadvantaged populations in my electorate. It is funded by small annual fees which are charged to co-op members. The centre currently has over 5,400 people with co-op memberships.

The centre began thanks to $220,000 of seed funding from the Commonwealth government in 2009, which was matched by $220,000 from the ACT government. According to board members, the seed funds were invaluable in helping them to fit-out the premises and get the co-op established. I would like to use this opportunity to acknowledge the work of Bob McMullan, my predecessor as the member for Fraser; the Minister for Health and Ageing, Nicola Roxon; and the ACT Minister for Health, Katy Gallagher.

The co-op now has five doctors working with it, all recruited from outside the ACT, particularly from the oversupplied UK. This is significantly helping to address the local GP shortage. The centre is now looking to expand, with six doctors, three practice nurses and several support staff. This extended space at Charnwood will be opening within weeks and will enable the co-op to provide space for a bulk-billing pathology provider.

The co-op is opening its second health centre this week in Totterdell Street in the Belconnen town centre. Other organisations are invited as community partners to become involved with the professional health services of the co-op. The co-op board has recently decided to employ a community relationships manager whose key responsibility will be to integrate some of these relationships such as with the Junction Youth Health Service and with Companion House, which supports survivors of torture and trauma.

I would like to acknowledge the hard work of several individuals involved in the co-op: Michael Pilbrow, the chair; Roger Nicoll, the current deputy chair and previous chair; Peter White, the secretary; Brian Frith; Paul Flint; Joanne Courtney; Jenny McGee; and Ross Maxwell. I would like to conclude by acknowledging the skilled volunteers who served for no pay on the original committee and the subsequent board of directors. They had the vision and the commitment to pursue a dream of a community owned health centre rather than complain and wait for someone else to fix the problem.

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Cnr Gungahlin Pl and Efkarpidis Street, Gungahlin ACT 2912 | 02 6247 4396 | [email protected] | Authorised by A. Leigh MP, Australian Labor Party (ACT Branch), Canberra.