School’s in for local doctors offering GP visits on campus

Mount Clear College has been hosting a doctor in their school for the past decade, since staff realised the need for students to have easier access to a GP.

DOCTOR: Tiana Burge, 13, and Eddie Tanaka, 14, with nurse Lucy Hughes in Mount Clear College's doctor's surgery, part of the Doctors in Secondary Schools program. Picture: Lachlan Bence

DOCTOR: Tiana Burge, 13, and Eddie Tanaka, 14, with nurse Lucy Hughes in Mount Clear College's doctor's surgery, part of the Doctors in Secondary Schools program. Picture: Lachlan Bence

They pioneered a doctors in school program, funding it out of the school budget, to enhance the wellbeing of their students.

This year, their experience in providing on-campus medical care has led to the school being part of the fully-funded Doctors in Secondary Schools pilot program that will be rolled out across the state.

The state government program provides schools with a purpose-built surgery building and a doctor and nurse to staff it one day a week.

Principal Lynita Taylor said the program valuable to students and their families.

“You will know you’ve got a need for a child but to get them to a service is very challenging for a school, and often a question of time, so having that service on site one day a week is wonderful,” Ms Taylor said.

“There’s also the fact that, as students get older, they can do these things themselves without putting stress on the family. Some people work big hours and it’s difficult to juggle that work, family and everything else.”

Previously the doctor had been seeing patients in one of the school offices, but the new program involved a purpose-built portable being installed at the school.

A staff member “triages” student patients and books appointments according to level of need and urgency. Students do not incur any out of pocket expenses for seeing the GP.

The school’s student services coordinator Fiona Wooller welcomed the opportunity to have a more modern, up-to-date facility that enhanced the sustainability of the service.

“The initial need hasn’t really changed, which is to ensure students are able to access medical support, make well-informed decisions about their health and take responsibility for their health and wellbeing,” Ms Wooller said.

“Students needed to access a GP for various things and there was a lack of opportunity and lack of understanding how to go about it. They were feeling a bit intimidated or not really feeling knowledegable to access clinics within the community.

“The original idea was to break down those barriers so they could access health, and we were one of the very first in Victoria to have a doctor’s clinic in school.”

Western Victoria Primary Health Network works in partnership with the government and schools to provide the Doctors in Secondary Schools Program.

“This service empowers students to take responsibility for their health care and provides them with an experience of building a relationship with a GP,” said Western Victoria PHN chief executive Dr Leanne Beagley.

Phoenix P-12 Community College and Ballarat Secondary College Mt Rowan campus are also expected to have doctors employed under the pilot program from term one next year.