Small business could be key to Bowen’s healthcare system
MORE allied health professionals could be the answer to not only easing Bowen's packed healthcare system, but to bringing more small businesses to the community.
When Bowen Physiotherapy owner and operator Alex Pyke was looking for a location to set up his physiotherapy clinic, he was surprised to see the Bowen region had little in the way of allied health professionals.
Originally from Melbourne, Mr Pyke said Bowen was a perfect opportunity for an allied health business to bloom, as his own practice looks to introduce a second physiotherapist in 2020 due to a large amount of work.
He said the positive flow-on effects of more services could mean reduced wait times for GPs, smaller hospital visitation rates and the ability for extra small businesses to enter the community.
"When you start to look at the ratios of big cities, you probably have a physiotherapist clinic every 5km," Mr Pyke said.
"When you come out to the smaller, regional communities you're lucky if you have a physiotherapist for every 2000 people."
He said with a catchment of 12,000 people in Bowen there was an untapped need for more small healthcare businesses, including podiatrists, nutritionists and occupational therapists.
If these services were to embrace Bowen, he said there would be a decline in wait time at local doctors, as they would no longer be required to 'do everything'.
"At the moment you go to a doctor and they have to fill in for every role, so wait times are packed," he said.
"If we have more services, this will alleviate the stress on those doctors and let them focus on treating the issues only they can."
Bowen Medical Centre practice manager Sharon Bradford agreed more allied health professionals were needed for Bowen, however, it was important they remained affordable.
"We desperately need an occupational therapist and a speech therapist in town," she said.
"However they need to be affordable, or part of a Medicare system so they don't fall by the wayside."
She said having local services would assist those with travelling costs as the Patient Travel Subsidy Scheme didn't apply to allied health services.
Bowen Chamber of Commerce chairman, Bruce Hedditch, said he would like to see more done in all forms of government towards bringing more allied health professionals to the region.
"At the moment I think it's ludicrous that we don't have these services," he said.
"Having to ask residents to travel away from Bowen isn't fair, especially for those who may struggle to make it to even Proserpine or Cannonvale.
"If there is the chance for small business to fill this health void, and do it successfully, I'm behind it."
Mr Hedditch said the Bowen Chamber of Commerce was now considering a scholarship to entice Bowen students considering studying health fields to return to the region.
Mr Pyke said being a healthcare professional in a regional community was one of the most satisfying things you could do.
After seeing more than 250 patients since establishing in 2019, he said every day was a new challenge.
"You see everything from complex neurological problems to a simple ankle sprain, and that's what makes it so amazing to work here," he said.