Lease fiasco shuts out GPs
Frustrated: Brian Pearce at the medical centre. Picture: Tim Slater/The Kalgoorlie Miner

A new $1.4 million medical centre in Esperance has been empty for almost a year because of a dispute between the WA Country Health Service and local doctors.

Built on the Esperance Hospital site in February last year, the Interim Medical Centre was designed to address a serious doctor shortage in the area.

The building can accommodate 13 doctors and visiting specialists but has never been used because an agreement has not been reached over the lease.

A group of doctors tendered to use the building but withdrew after negotiations with the WACHS broke down.

It is understood the original lease offered was 120 pages long and included an $86,000 lease fee and strict conditions around working hours.

Eyre MLA Graham Jacobs said he was frustrated by the situation, admitting there was discontent between the service and the Esperance medical community.

He said an $80,000 lease fee would not be feasible and $50,000 in lease fees had potentially been lost while the building was not in use.

"Yes, there have been difficulties with the Health Department but I think they are still on the vision," Dr Jacobs said.

"I probably should have been a little bit more involved and maybe we shouldn't be so precious about all the commercial in confidence business."

WACHS Goldfields regional director Geraldine Ennis said the lease had been drafted by the State Solicitor's Office.

A commercial lease for the centre, which includes simplified conditions, will be advertised this week.

There is currently no clinical space for new doctors who want to work in Esperance.

The three doctors who expressed an interest in the centre are based in a surgery on the hospital grounds but have been told that building is to be demolished.

Rural Clinical School Associate Professor Donald Howarth said the lease "fiasco" was the result of a lack of consultation with the medical community.

"You didn't have to be terribly bright to realise it would antagonise people and you wouldn't get what you want," he said.

"The whole sort of goodwill in the process of discussing the centre has pretty much evaporated."

But Ms Ennis said doctors and a practice manager from Esperance were consulted about the Government's plans for the centre.

The Esperance Community Fundraising Group has raised $87,000 for specialist eye laser surgery equipment for the centre.

Chairman Brian Pearce said he was frustrated the money was sitting in a bank account and was not being used to help people.

"We've got people here who can't travel to Albany for eye operations because they are pensioners and have no friends or relatives to stay with, and they can't afford to stay," he said.

The West Australian

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