By Michael Doran
One year ago Healesville High School Principal, Allan Rennick took a leap of faith and opened the school’s in-house GP clinic.
At the first birthday celebration on 30 October, he said, “I didn’t see it as a courageous decision at all, it was clearly going to benefit the students and was in their best interests. Why wouldn’t you do it?”
“One year on and it has overwhelmingly exceeded all our expectations.I am really pleased that we chose to become involved in the program.”
Healesville High is part of the Doctors in Secondary Schools initiative where 100 Victorian government secondary schools have been funded to have a GP attend up to once a week.
Out of the 135 schools that applied, two from the Yarra Valley were selected, Healesville High School and Upper Yarra Secondary College.
“We understood that the idea of students making their own GP appointments was potentially confronting and at the start we had a bit of pushback from parts of the community. However we saw this as a very valuable service to our students and worth pursuing,” Mr. Rennick said.
The clinic is run by Dr. Khoi Bui, from Healesville”s Get Well Clinic and he also believes initial expectations have been exceeded. “Its been better than what I thought it would be,” he said.
“We empower the students with the right information on how to achieve the good health a lot of them are missing out on, like healthy eating, good sleeping habits and how to manage stress.”
“All these things will help them to do better at school but they are lifelong skills as well. We are helping them with strategies on how to handle life.”
Lyn Scotchmoor is student wellbeing manager at the school and looks at the program from the students perspective.
“This program means the students can get what they need in-house and within school hours,” she said. “It helps to make them feel in charge of their wellbeing, which is a great lesson for their future when they leave here.”
On the subject of parental involvement Dr. Khoi said, “We welcome dialogue with the parents when we believe it is necessary and the student allows it.”
“We have to deal with the complexity of patient confidentiality and the law in the context of what is best for the students.”
“I believe in capturing issues early before they become bigger problems later in life. Success is not about how many students we see in the clinic, it is about the long term effects on the students of what we are doing today.”
In the first year the GP clinic has seen 117 different students out of a school population of around 400. It operates out of a new facility that resembles a typical suburban GPs surgery, funded as part of the program.