Grant opens door to practice efficiency
For Brian Morton and his colleagues at the small Northbridge Medical Practice in Sydney’s northern suburbs, the shortcomings of their premises were beginning to grate. Limited areas for treatment, a shortage of consulting rooms, outdated computers and tired beds meant that the practice was, as Dr Morton put it, “not very efficient”.
For Brian Morton and his colleagues at the small Northbridge Medical Practice in Sydney’s northern suburbs, the shortcomings of their premises were beginning to grate.
Limited areas for treatment, a shortage of consulting rooms, outdated computers and tired beds meant that the practice was, as Dr Morton put it, “not very efficient”.
So when the Federal Government offered grants to help pay for clinic upgrades, Northbridge was among 280 practices to apply.
Little more than 12 months and $153,000 later, Dr Morton is chuffed with the results.
The renovations involved demolishing three cramped and ill-suited rooms used for treatment, storage and utilities into a large and well-equipped treatment area complete with electric height adjustable beds, an extra consulting room, a dedicated area for minor surgical procedures, and upgraded desktop computers.
After barely being used before the upgrade, the enlarged and improved treatment area is now a hub of activity as Dr Morton and the practice’s seven other doctors, together with a complement of nurses, make full use of the new facilities without the delays and waiting times caused by the old set up.
“The efficiency gains and the increased use of the nurses has been invaluable,” Dr Morton said.
According to the GP, the process of obtaining the grant and getting the work done was relatively painless, attributing much of the success to his practice manager, Deb Whiley.
“Having a practice manager is terrific, because she had the expertise and the time to do it,” he said, praising her for her initiative in hiring an outside adviser to help draw up the grant application.
Ms Whiley said there was an “enormous amount” of documentation required to apply for the grant, and subsequently account for the way it was spent, but expert guidance by Department of Health and Ageing staff and report templates it provided had greatly smoothed the process.
“I didn’t find it particularly onerous,” Ms Whiley said. “There is a huge amount of documentation involved in the process, but I didn’t think it was unreasonable, and it was not difficult to get through.”
Work began on the application in May 2011, when Ms Whiley hired a consultant who had previously prepared a successful grant application for a practice on the central coast.
The application was submitted just before the closing date for the second round of Primary Care Infrastructure Grants in June last year, and the practice was informed its request had been shortlisted for approval in late November.
During this time architects and designers were engaged to prepare plans and, once the grant was approved in January this year, the deposit on the building contract was paid.
The grant itself was paid in three instalments, the first soon after approval was granted, the second while works were underway and the final payment upon completion in early June.
Ms Whiley said the practice had to make an initial outlay to cover fees for the consultant, architect and designers, as well as to pay the building contract deposit.
But once the grant funds began to flow, they arrived in a timely manner, she said.
According to Dr Morton, the results of the upgrade show that for a relatively small investment of taxpayer funds, the Government can achieve significant improvements in the delivery of health care.
“What we have got for the money is fantastic,” he said. “It is very clear that spending government grants on renovating existing practices gives a far better bang for your buck than a Super Clinic can ever be.”
Published: 01 Jul 2012