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Regions provide healthy market

DEMAND for specialist occupational health care in the remote mining communities of Australia is driving Gemini Medical Services, a joint venture between River Medical Services and local group Delta Health.

Delta Health is the result of a merger between the West Perth Occupational Medical Clinic and Delta Occupational Health.

Its experience in occupational health prompted the development of the Gemini remote medical practices in Kalgoorlie, Mount Isa and South Hedland.

In these clinics Delta Health provides the occupational health experience and River Medical Services delivers the remote management.

One of its services is helping injured workers to get back to work – something lacking in WA’s regions.

“We saw a need for occupational health services (in remote areas) because there is a lot of heavy industry and no other corporate health groups were going down this path so we saw it as an opportunity,” Delta Health executive officer Catherine Johnson said.

“We didn’t plan three clinics in eight months, it really just happened.

“We had to tender for a lot of the clinics.

“In South Hedland it was set up following a taskforce to encourage more doctors into the town.

“Our experience in the mining industry helped us with the Mount Isa contract.”

The Delta Health board of directors is made up of doctors who work in the West Perth clinic.

“It’s a little bit different to Endeavour or Foundation. It’s a lot flatter,” Ms Johnson said.

Delta Health is opening two new clinics in the Perth metropolitan area to cater for demand for occupational health, travel medicine and general practice in Rockingham and Canning Vale.

“Originally the West Perth clinic did a lot of occupational health work because there was a lot of light industry in the area,” Ms Johnson said.

“Then it got involved in the mining industry.”

The group has headed off a number of approaches from competing corporate health groups interested in buying the business.

“We feel we are a little bit special as we had the opportunity to sell and we were approached by a few (corporate medical groups) and at the time we came very close,” Ms Johnson said.

“One other reason we didn’t sell was we didn’t want to lose some of our autonomy.”

“Once we’ve got Canning Vale and Rockingham in place there are no plans for anything else in the immediate future. We were just reacting to a need in the market.

“As we move into the three clinics it will be interesting to see if we can duplicate what we’ve done in West Perth.”

Ms Johnson said the doctor-patient relationship was very different in occupational health.

“In occupational health there are three people involved – the employee, the injured worker and the doctor,” she said.

“With occupational health the time spent with the patient is often two or three times that of a normal patient.”

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