Schools nurture healthy kids

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Pakenham students will be among the first in Victoria to have regular access to a GP clinic on school grounds under the Australia-first Doctors in Secondary Schools initiative.

Pakenham Secondary College is one of 20 schools that will begin the State Government program in term one next year.

Minister for Education James Merlino attended Pakenham Secondary College as the relocatable portable building was installed on Thursday 15 December.

“Having doctors in schools will give students reliable healthcare, reduce the pressure on working parents and GPs, and help young people identify and address their health concerns early.”

“Not only are we giving teenagers access to the healthcare they need at school, we’re supporting over 130 local jobs by manufacturing the GP clinics in Victoria.”

General Practitioners (GPs) will visit the school as often as once a week, with students able to seek referrals to specialists for the help they need before it affects their studies.

The relocatable GP clinics are being manufactured at factories in Pakenham, Dandenong, Bendigo and Somerton, supporting more than 130 local jobs.

Each building will feature a consultation room, waiting room, and an office for health and wellbeing staff.

Pakenham Secondary College principal Ray Squires said the clinic would provide an opportunity to expand the support offered to students, and to help ease the load on parents and carers.

“A student’s good health is critical to their learning,” Mr Squires said.

“It is terrific to be able to expand the types of supports available to students to enhance their well-being.”

Narre Warren South College has also been identified among the first 20 schools to trial the program next year.

The program’s announcement initially sparked controversy over parental consent for children accessing healthcare services at school.

But a State Government spokesman told the Gazette that students enrolled at the pilot schools would only have access to the GP subject to providing mandatory consent.

The State Government provided $43.8 million for Doctors in Secondary Schools in the Victorian Budget 2016/’17. This would include $25.8 million for staff and operational costs, and $18 million to build consultation rooms on school grounds.

There would be no out-of-pocket expenses for participating schools, students or their guardians for consultations with the GP.

Originally published at Pakenham Gazette.

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About Alana Mitchelson

Alana Mitchelson is a journalist based in Melbourne, Australia. Follow her on Twitter at @AlanaMitchelson.

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