Doctors to get priority enrolments as ECEC shortage continues
The Sector > Economics > Affordability & Accessibility > Medical professionals given priority of access for ECEC services as pressures continue

Medical professionals given priority of access for ECEC services as pressures continue

by Freya Lucas

April 02, 2024

Children of doctors will be given priority access at the Gladys Smith Early Learning Centre as the border community of Wattle Range continues to manage pressures for early childhood education and care (ECEC). 


Wattle Range Council is a local government area in the Limestone Coast region of South Australia that stretches from the coast at Beachport east to the Victorian border. At the last census the population was over 11,000. 


Council members recently voted to review the admission criteria for ECEC access at the Gladys Smith Early Learning Centre to give priority for admission to children of medical doctors working in the Council area in a bid to attract more doctors to the region. 


The Centre, which is owned and run by the Council, currently has a waiting list of nearly 80 children, with Councillor David Walshaw moving the motion to bring it into line with other centres in Mount Gambier. 


“We are in a competitive marketplace to attract and retain doctors, so as a grab-bag, these are things we need to look into,“ he said. 


Councillor Walshaw expressed concern that without incentives for doctors to come to the area health outcomes for the community may decline. 


“I think medical services are the most important bits of social fabric in a community,” he said. 


“We need to have the ability to bring people in, because if they come here and it’s not up to scratch they won’t stay.“


The initial motion was more inclusive, calling for ‘essential services’ workers to be prioritised, including the children of doctors, nurses, teachers, police officers, paramedics and allied health personnel, but after discussion the motion was amended.


For Councillor Deb Agnew the motion was concerning and complex, leaving her to ponder the ethics when it comes to other children in the community waiting to access care. 


“I am not sure I can support it because I know families who use the childcare centre, and I don’t want anyone bumped off,” she said. “Everyone has the right to work.” 


Councillor Agnew was joined in her objections by Councillor Sharon Cox who also voted against the motion. 


This story was originally published in The Border Watch and may be accessed here

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