By Patrick Hutchens
An Australian Government decision to withdraw funding for the Aboriginal Medical Service Western Sydney will affect the patients of the centre’s sole optometrist Andrew Mizzi.
Mr Mizzi, who had been conducting a general clinic at AMSWS once a fortnight and a diabetes clinic once every six weeks, does not expect to continue seeing those patients after the centre closes.
‘It is very, very sad that the community is going to lose such a fantastic asset,’ Mr Mizzi said.
The Department of Health announced in July that funding for the organisation would cease within three months, due to debts of millions of dollars that the AMSWS owes creditors.
The AMSWS employs general practitioners, specialists, speech pathologists and other health practitioners to service the medical needs of Aboriginal people living in western Sydney.
It was estimated that the AMSWS had over 11,000 patients who would need to find other medical services if the centre were to close.
Mr Mizzi said that there were plenty of optometrists in the Mount Druitt area who could provide services for the patients affected by a closure of the AMSWS, but pointed out that the service played a role in persuading patients to attend their appointments and would provide bus transport for those who needed it.
‘If you’re a private practice and someone doesn’t show up for an appointment, you might ring them, but if they don’t come in, you’re not going to send a bus to go and get them, which is what the medical centre used to do,’ he said.
In the diabetes clinic, Mr Mizzi sees from six to eight patients each session and often they are new patients.
‘I did see one patient who didn’t know anything about [the AMSWS closing] and she was pretty upset about it, because she’s been going there for years and she relies on it,’ he said.
Mr Mizzi believes the best outcome would be for a professional management team to take over the administration of the centre and for the government to continue with a guarantee of funding.
‘I don’t think there have been any problems with the medical service that has been offered, it’s simply a management and accounting problem,’ he said.