‘Let essential workers jump childcare queue’

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‘Let essential workers jump childcare queue’

Priority for keenly-sought childcare places at a council-operated facility in Millicent should be given to the children of doctors, nurses, teachers, police officers, para medics and allied health professionals.

This is the opinion of David Walshaw who is an elected member of Wattle Range Council and a former Lower South East Health Service regional director and St Anthony’s school board chairman.

There are only 60 places at the Gladys Snith Early Learning Centre while he understands the waiting list for a place numbers around 100.

Cr Walshaw believes the inability to secure a place at Millicent’s sole child care centre is restricting the transfer to the town of such vital professionals as GPs, police and health and education personnel.

“We are not talking big numbers here,” Cr Walshaw told The SE Voice.

“It might be only five or six places that are needed each year.

“GPs with young families are not coming to Millicent for the same reason.”

As a first step, Cr Walshaw has submitted a notice of motion to the March monthly council meeting in Millicent tonight (Tuesday).

He is looking for Wattle Range Council to review the admission criteria for childcare at the Gladys Smith Early Learning Centre and to give priority to children of essential services workers.

“The recruitment of GPs to rural areas is not just a healthcare issue, but a societal one, as the lack of such doctors in rural areas directly impacts the health and well-being of our communities,” Cr Walshaw said.

“The importance of having a general practitioner, where possible, in every community cannot be overstated.

“These dedicated professionals provide primary healthcare services, from routine check-ups to managing chronic diseases.

“However, the reality is that many rural areas face significant challenges in attracting and retaining these essential healthcare providers.

“The role of local councils in this matter also cannot be overstated.

“As the first line of defence in rural communities, local councils can play a crucial role in supporting and advocating for the attraction and recruitment of GPs.

“They can do this by creating an environment that is conducive to the success of rural healthcare recruitment by investing in local infrastructure, by providing amongst other things, better access to childcare facilities, financial or housing incentives, and fostering a sense of community.

“But local councils alone cannot solve this problem.

“The role of the community and government agencies is equally significant, however, within the scope of the Wattle Range Council’s responsibility, there are some simple things we can do to support with the recruitment and retention of doctors and other essential services workers.

“At the current time I understand the waiting list for admission to the Gladys Smith Early Learning Centre is significant, so the prospect of an essential workers children obtaining admission to the Centre in the short to medium term would be near impossible so they are obliged to look at other facilities in other towns that can expedite entry.

“While the focus of this motion is mainly directed toward GP recruitment as predicated on our recent discussions and Medical Clinic Millicent partner Dr James Bushell’s recent public messaging, the loss of essential workers considering Millicent as a location to support the provision of primary health care, education and law and order as described above cannot be understated.

“I am aware of several essential workers who have chosen to live and work in Mount Gambier to the detriment of Millicent due to the ready access to childcare.”

The Gladys Smith Early Learning Centre opened in 1977 and currently has 26 staff.

Daily charges are set each year by the council and are currently up to $140.

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