Priority childcare access supported

Priority childcare access supported

Wattle Range Council voted 7/2 on Tuesday night to give priority to the children of medical doctors in this area for places at its Gladys Smith Early Learning Centre in Millicent.

Councillor David Walshaw moved the successful motion and said the council should be offering such incentives to attract doctors to Millicent.

Along with Mayor Des Noll, he had recently spent an hour discussing doctor recruitment with the partners who operate the Medical Clinic Millicent.

Cr Walshaw said the Medical Clinic Millicent serviced an area with 10,000 residents but there were some days when only one doctor was on duty at the Short Street practice.

He said the current number of five GPs compared to 16 when he came to live in Millicent in 2000.

“They are flat out at the clinic and you have to wait three or four weeks to get a (routine) appointment,” Cr Walshaw said.

“Childcare will not be the only silver bullet: we need lots of silver bullets.

“Priority access to childcare is a small first step.

“You will not get doctors who were educated at St Peter’s College and Adelaide University coming to Millicent

“They are likely to be young international medical graduates with the female doctors wanting child care.

“Millicent is in competition with other towns for doctors. We have to do things that other communities do not do.”

He and Cr Dale Price quoted the example of Penola where the community supported doctors by providing a house.

Cr Price recalled welcoming a South African doctor and his family with a basket of toys as they had arrived in Penola with only their suitcases.

“They ended up staying in Penola for several years,” Cr Price said.

“There has to be a strategy to attract doctors which is a whole community effort.”

Cr Walshaw warned that doctors might leave Millicent and instead go where there is a better income stream and greater access to time off.

His original notice of motion wanted the priority access to be extended to children of teachers, nurses and other essential services workers.

Cr Walshaw anticipated his revised motion would only apply to a couple of children.

There are currently 65 places at the Gladys Smith Early Learning Centre and a further 70 children were on the waiting list.

Council chief executive Ben Gower said the centre was licensed for up to 74 children but it did not have enough Bachelor-qualified staff at present to cater for this number.

Cr Deb Agnew said the priority access policy was a complex issue.

“I know families who do not want to get bumped off the wait list,” Cr Agnew said.

“I think this matter should lay on the table until we can have a meeting with the other agencies and the clinic partners. I do not think anyone is more important than another.”

However, support in debate for Cr Walshaw’s revised motion was expressed by Crs Peter Dunnicliff, Richard Cassidy and Chris Brodie and was strongly supported when put to a vote.

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