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By Sarah Vella
A SHORTAGE of doctors at Toora and
Foster has forced the medical centres to
turn patients away.
The two medical centres are currently experienc-
ing a period of high demand for services, with a lim-
ited number of doctors and the centres are unable to
accept new patients from outside the Foster and Toora
areas, with the exception of maternity cases.
Practice manager Heather Byrne said the cen-
tres had lost three full time doctors in the past eight
“Dr Philip Worboys was involved in a serious ac-
cident in October last year and hasn’t been able to
return to work,” she said.
“He still plans to return, but is many months away
Dr Wayne Shipley relocated to Queensland in De-
cember and just last week, Dr Karveh left the centres
to work in Melbourne.
Ms Byrne said they now have a significant work-
force shortage that is struggling to meet demand from
the local community, leaving them unable to take on
“We get a lot of people from outside the area
phoning for appointments and while we sympathise
with them, we just don’t have the capacity to accom-
modate them,” she said.
“We are actively recruiting, but it is challenging.
It is not just a problem in Foster, it is a problem for
all regional areas.”
The challenges facing rural practices are multi
“Doctors sometimes feel challenged by the ex-
pectations of a rural environment, which can be more
complex than a city environment, with less access to
specialists,” Ms Byrne said.
“Other challenges include the limited availability
of doctors who are willing to work outside a metro-
politan area and the distance to Melbourne.”
Ms Byrne said the Foster and Toora centres has a
large group of experienced doctors who can support
new staff, but even with that environment, recruit-
ment is proving difficult.
“For people to relocate to a rural area like Foster
or Toora, they have to start from scratch. The practice
works hard to make new people welcome,” she said.
Ms Byrne said until the centre is successful in re-
cruiting new staff, appointments will only be accessi-
ble by existing patients, people from within the Foster
and Toora communities and maternity cases.
“It is certainly possible this could change, but it is
unlikely in the foreseeable future,” she said.
Doctor shortage: Foster and Toora Medical Centre’s practice principal Dr Owen Casson
and practice manager Heather Byrne are working hard to recruit new doctors to their prac-
tice, after losing three full time doctors over the past eight months.
Patients turned away
to rural living
By Brad Lester
MORE land could be opened to rural
living after South Gippsland Shire
Council adopted a plan to address
The Domestic Wastewater Management
Plan 2016-2020 will enable council to consider
applications for the development of small va-
cant rural lots in the Tarwin River catchment
where development density exceeds one house
per 40ha or eight houses within a 1km radius.
The Tarwin River supplies potable water to
Dumbalk and Meeniyan.
Development of such lots was limited by
ministerial guidelines for planning permit ap-
plications in open potable water supply catch-
ments, which restricted the granting of plan-
ning permits to develop unsewered lots where
development density exceeded the 40ha or 1km
rulings, for fear of excessive septic run-off in
potable water catchments.
The plan identifies wastewater risks and
provides township management plans for all
towns and rural areas in the shire, with better
monitoring and maintenance of existing sys-
tems recommended for some towns.
Council will also educate landholders about
sewerage systems and ensure those are com-
pliant to minimise health risks in unsewered
townships and rural areas.
Cr Jim Fawcett said, “It opens up the capac-
ity of some of our existing smaller blocks in the
area to be opened up for rural living.”
He flagged council would be undertaking a
more stringent inspection of septic systems to
ensure these were compliant and “I expect that
we will cop a small amount of flack over that”.
Cr Don Hill said the lack of an updated plan
“stopped planning applications in their tracks”
but the plan would now allow for planning per-
mit application assessments based on science.
“That’s the way it should be,” he said.
The plan notes that Koonwarra, where sep-
tic odour has been an issue for residents, could
be connected to Leongatha’s wastewater man-
agement treatment plant if “sufficient commu-
nity interest is shown”.
Sandy Point may be connected to the Wara-
tah Bay wastewater treatment plant if evidence
of significant risk is shown and the community
Port Franklin could also be connected to the
Toora wastewater treatment plant and Stony
Creek to the Meeniyan plant, with community
Improved maintenance of septic systems
is a priority for Venus Bay given households
use groundwater. The report states groundwa-
ter bores must be at least 20m from effluent
disposal areas and the prospect of a sewerage
system was not ruled out.
The plan notes council’s top five towns for
priority for sewerage are Sandy Point, Venus
Bay, Fish Creek, Walkerville and Port Frank-
The plan advises against further develop-
ment of the small settlements of Agnes, Berrys
Creek, Buffalo and Mirboo but still require im-
proved maintenance of existing systems.
Cr Mohya Davies noted the plan was anoth-
er example of the State Government imposing
legislation on to council.
Council is required to have a Domestic
Wastewater Management Plan under state leg-
The last such plan council had expired in
2011 but creation of the new plan was delayed
pending resolution of the Loch, Nyora and
Poowong Sewerage Scheme and the review of
the ministerial guidelines.
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