THE director of Geelong’s primary refugee medical centre says a City Hall move to reject a new purpose-built clinic will impact hundreds of the region’s most vulnerable residents.
Corio Bay Medical Centre owner Dr Abbas Mahmood said the clinic could not accept any Diversitat referrals for new patients after the City of Greater Geelong Council refused an application to build a new $1.8 million centre on a vacant former church block.
Dr Mahmood said the centre had “almost single-handedly” managed the healthcare needs of the refugee settlement programs for the Geelong region for the past nine years and was unable to cater for any more patients in its current location.
Dr Mahmood submitted an application to build the new centre on a 2850 sqm block at Sparks Rd, Norlane in February.
The plans were rejected in April by council’s development hearings panel.
The rejected plans detailed a two-level development with space for up to 15 practitioners and a pathology collection area, pharmacy, immunisation room, 50 parking spaces and other allied health services such as physiotherapy and podiatry on the ground level.
Council documents state the development was not recommended because the “proposal is not consistent with the purpose and decisions guidelines of the General Residential Zone”.
“The location, design, scale and intensity of the proposed use and uncertainty of traffic amenity impacts is what makes this application detrimental,” the document read.
“It is recommended the application be refused on this basis.”
Dr Mahmood said he was “disappointed” by council’s decision and had informed Diversitat that no new referrals would be accepted from July 1 onwards.
“It’s the hardest thing to do — because I am saying no to the most vulnerable people,” Dr Mahmood said.
He said refusing the centre would impact up to 400 of the community’s most vulnerable residents.
“We are under enormous stress and our doctors are overbooked,” Dr Mahmood said
“This centre is critically needed for the community and it is supported by the health sector,” he said.
The site was purchased by the Corio Bay Medical Bay Clinic in April last year.
Development on that site had been supported by Barwon Health, despite its proximity to the $33 million State Government-funded Barwon Health North facility.
“The demographics and poorer health of the community in this part of the northern suburbs is well documented and having extra services in this part of Norlane will assist a very marginalised part of the community,” Barwon Health said in a statement of support.
The rejected development had also received backing from the Western Victoria Primary Health Network, Diversitat and Labor Corio MP Richard Marles.
Mr Marles told The Geelong Advertiser council needed to show good reason for rejecting the plan.
“The northern suburbs of Geelong are in critical need of more medical services — so there would need to be a very good reason to be denying those medical services,” Mr Marles said.
Dr Mahmood will apply to have the decision reviewed by VCAT.