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Five Doctors, No Waiting

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Receptionist Hayley Cooper is one of the best-known faces at the Blackbutt Medical Centre, and has had a busy time of things since three new doctors joined the practice last week

February 8, 2017

A shortage of GPs that has bedevilled parts of the South Burnett for years finally seems to be over in the Timbertowns.

In a little less than five years, Blackbutt has gone from having just one doctor to having five.

Last week three GPs joined two existing ones at the Blackbutt Medical Centre, and the trio of newcomers are already happy settling into life in the Timbertowns.

The three new doctors are:

  • Dr Yasangi Ranawaka, who graduated from University of Newcastle in 2008 and has worked in a wide range of specialties. She has one child and enjoys spending her spare time with her family, as well as gardening, reading and playing tennis.
  • Dr Katie Sunderland, who graduated from the University of Queensland in 2013. Dr Sunderland has been working at the Royal Brisbane and Women’s Hospital in a variety of specialties for the past three years, but her passion is rural family practice.
  • Dr Jarom Leneham, who graduated from the University of Queensland in 2014 and has spent the past couple of years working at Ipswich Hospital. Dr Leneham enjoys soccer and running and also does computer programming and web development in his spare time. He also has a Graduate Diploma of Education, but says he finds being a doctor much easier than being a high school teacher.

They join Dr Yonghong Zhou, who graduated from Guangzhou Medical University in 1984 and has been practicing medicine in Australia for over 5 years; and Blackbutt Medical Centre co-owner Dr Daphene (Daph) Connor, who graduated from Beijing Medical University in 1983 and has been practicing as a GP in Australia for almost two decades.

Dr Connor, along her husband Jeff who manages the medical centre, moved to Blackbutt in 2006 to take over an existing medical practice.

In 2012 they began constructing the Blackbutt Medical Centre at 91 Coulson Street to provide better medical facilities for the town.

The $750,000 project was unveiled mid-way through 2013, offering patients parking for 16 cars, covered walkways, a three-bed treatment room, six consulting rooms, a visiting specialist facility and ‘state of the art’ e-health and teleconferencing facilities.

It is also fully air-conditioned and has its own back-up power.

The Blackbutt Pharmacy re-located to the front of the centre soon afterwards, and QML Pathology took over one of the consulting rooms not long after that so any pathology requests could be carried out with a minimum of disruption for patients.

The new building also allowed the Blackbutt Medical Centre to operate as a training facility for University of Queensland medical students, and offer highly valued GP Training Post positions for GP Registrars.

In order to qualify as a full GP, graduating medical students are required to work in as hospital for two years, and must then spend the following two years working at two different medical practices to gain hands-on experience with all the things GPs routinely encounter.

The medical centre opened with two full-time GPs, as well as a visiting GP who attended three days a week, a medical student and a nurse.

“It was always our plan to eventually expand to five GPs,” Jeff said.

“But we expected it would take between five to ten years to do it, so we’re really pleased to have got there in a little over three and half.”

In addition to regular GP services, the practice now offers childhood and travel immunisations; diabetes and asthma education; a skin cancer clinic that can perform minor operations onsite; pre-employment medicals; and a range of other services that cover men’s health, women’s health, children’s health and acupuncture.

The Centre also has several visiting allied health practitioners including psychologists, a dietician, an exercise physiologist, a podiatrist and a speech therapist

The Centre is open Mondays to Fridays from 8:00am to 5:00pm and on Saturdays by appointment.

It also has a 24-hour call number and operates a website and a Facebook page so that patients can get in touch easily at any time.

“At the moment we’re signing up three new patients a day,” Jeff said.

“And now that we have a full complement of doctors, we can see most people the same day they call, or at the very worst the next day.”

Related articles:

New GPs Dr Yasangi Ranawaka, Dr Katie Sunderland and Dr Jarom Leneham say they're looking forward to life in the Timbertowns

Blackbutt Medical Centre manager Jeff Connor says he and his wife are very proud they've been able to bring state-of-the-art medical services to the town ... and quicker than they'd expected


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