Medical centre owner creates creche for staff
The Sector > Economics > Affordability & Accessibility > Thrive Medical Centre owner takes ECEC shortages into her own hands

Thrive Medical Centre owner takes ECEC shortages into her own hands

by Freya Lucas

April 10, 2024

For Thrive Medical Centre owner and occupational therapist Heather Pearce, being able to attract qualified medical professionals to practice long term at her Broken Hill service has been a challenge. 


Fed up with needing to rely on locum services to meet the needs of her patient community, Ms Pearce began to look deeper into the challenges those practitioners faced in settling down in a more long term fashion in Broken Hill, quickly learning that a lack of access to early childhood education and care (ECEC) was a big determinant. 


To meet the challenge head on, she has created an onsite creche for the children of the specialists and doctors who work within the practice.


“I thought, it just has to be easier to find childcare [workers] than it is to find an occupational therapist because they are like hens’ teeth,” she shared with the ABC. 


Clinical psychologist Alanna Byrne is one of the parents taking advantage of the service, sending her two year old to the creche three days per week. 


“I did not want to return full-time — I really wanted to be able to spend more time at home with my kiddo,” she said, “but I was definitely ready to start using my brain again and working a little bit.”


Without the provision of the creche she is doubtful she would be practicing face to face, and may instead have been doing online teaching or seeing patients via telehealth. 


Ms Byrne believes there are similar scenarios playing out across the country, and would like to see more support for regional and remote parents. 


Being able to practice face to face, and to respond to the demand for mental health support in regional and remote Australia, is something she is passionate about. 


“When you come to somewhere like Broken Hill there just isn’t enough services to cater for the population publicly or privately,” she said


Having the creche available has meant that occupational therapists, support workers and administrative staff have all been able to take on roles at the medical centre, with some staff from within the town, and others moving to Broken Hill for opportunity. 


Ms Pearce said being able to attract and retain workers meant the centre was able to provide greater continuity of care to its patients, and there had been strong feedback from locals, who were enjoying being treated by the same practitioner. 


She has encouraged other employers to consider a similar model saying “it really should be something that employers look at and how we can use this to overcome these issues with staffing.” 


The Rural Doctors Association are also supportive of the model and have asked the federal government to allocate $20 million to establish 10 pilot childcare centres in regional hospitals. 


According to chief executive Peta Rutherford, this might help attract and retain more doctors outside the major cities.


“The options are certainly reduced in rural and remote communities and sometimes there’s actually no centre at all,” she said. 


To read the original coverage of this story please see here

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