General News

17 August, 2022

Locals identify health priorities

BETTER access to GPs, mental health and addiction services are among the top priorities nominated by locals as part of a major assessment of health needs for the region.

By Robyn Holmes

Locals identify health priorities - feature photo

The priorities are part of 58 needs identified through a project undertaken by the Cairns and Hinterland Hospital and Health Service (CHHHS) which will form the basis of a new Clinical Services Plan to improve health services in the region. 

The information was gathered through an online survey which attracted 941 respondents and a series of face-to-face meetings with 278 people giving their feedback.

Ten key themes have now been identified which are mostly centred around access – to aged care and disability support and services, community care, GPs, culturally appropriate care, mental health and addiction support and services, services in rural and remote areas, and transport. 

The other themes were care coordination and awareness of services, factors that influence health outcomes (particularly for vulnerable people), and a high rate of risky health behaviours with limited resources for education and health promotion.

CHHHS acting chief executive Dr Jeremy Wellwood said the process had uncovered 58 overall needs for the region which were the focus of further consultation with the community last week to ensure there were no gaps.

“Identifying our communities’ health needs and planning for future clinical services are vital if we are to continue to meet their evolving and growing health needs,” he said.

“This important work also guides our resourcing decisions and our planning for programs or activities that support health needs into the future. 

“Now that we have a list of needs, we want to make sure that we are on the right track.

“Once we have consulted on our findings to ensure we have accurately reflected the local needs, we will provide our findings to our staff, the community and health providers.

“They will also continue to inform our future services planning.”

Locals who attended Atherton’s feedback session spoke at length of their frustration with the lack of GPs in the area, with one woman regaling how she had been left without a doctor after a local medical centre closed and was forced to wait more than three hours at the hospital just to get a PCR test for Covid.

Another woman spoke of how Herberton Hospital was now under-utilised.

“We fought hard to keep the hospital in the 80s to keep serving outpatients and have a nurse practitioner there but that has now all gone by the board and it’s now just a geriatric facility,” she said. 

Another person echoed the comments and suggested that an ambulance be stationed at the facility as there was currently no ambulance based in the Herberton area.

The lack of reliable digital connectivity was also raised, with one man suggesting investment was needed to bolster the delivery of telehealth services.

The Mareeba feedback session will be held on Friday, 19 August at Mareeba Leagues Club from 12.30pm-2pm.


  1.  Mental health and addiction services 

  2. Transport to enable access to health services 

  3. Improving access to GPs for patients to receive timely care 

  4. First Nations people’s cultural safety (including workforce) 

  5. Health workforce availability and capability


  • Renal dialysis service at Mareeba Hospital 

  • Herberton Hospital services 

  • Dental services for Atherton 

  • Rural and remote access to specialists

  • Ambulance services and resourcing 

  • Maternal and antenatal services


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