Patrick Berwick was banned from the Superclinic in Lismore after missing an appointment for the heart surgery he had.
Patrick Berwick was banned from the Superclinic in Lismore after missing an appointment for the heart surgery he had. Marc Stapelberg

Why the Lismore super clinic banned heart surgery patient

A PATIENT has been left high and dry after the Lismore GP Super clinic banned him for missing one appointment.

Patrick Berwick, 63, began attending the super clinic after undergoing unexpected open-heart surgery in October last year and needed regular treatment and check-ups post operation,

"It was major surgery," the Lismore man said.

"I needed a lot of appointments for blood checks, medication checks and general check-ups for the year of rehab following the operation. To the best of my knowledge the super clinic was the only practice in town taking bulk-billing patients."

But three weeks ago Mr Berwick called to make an appointment and was told the next available one was on a Sunday.

"It got to Sunday and I completely forgot about it," he said.

"I don't have a mobile phone, so I couldn't receive a reminder text message.

"They rang me 20 minutes after I should have been there saying where are you - I told them I was sorry I had forgotten and that I'd phone for another appointment next week - they said fine."

Mr Berwick called to reschedule, only to be told that the receptionist couldn't make one for him because the practice manager had put a note on his file saying not to make appointment.

Feeling confused, Mr Berwick asked to speak to the practice manager to find out what was going on.

"She said 'that's right, we've had a lot of people missing appointments, we are cracking down and you are banned'," Mr Berwick said.

"I felt awful, I felt really bad and upset for a couple of hours.

"Given that I haven't been able find anywhere else that bulk bills, it left me without any options at all, with no one to see.

"I felt isolated and completely disappointed in the health care system... it was ridiculous.

"It's concerning because people need to see a doctor and if they cant afford it and are banned from their only option, it's not the health system we are supposed to have."

Turning to our state and federal members for support, Mr Berwick said Kevin Hogan's office wasn't as sympathetic as Janelle Saffin's.

As well as working, Mr Berwick volunteers two days a week at the Winsome Soup Kitchen and recently discovered they run a medical clinic on a Wednesday.

"It's only for the homeless and for volunteers, but I am seeing a doctor there now and am very happy," he said.

"The receptionist at the winsome and the doctor there said they have heard of the Super Clinic banning people like that before, there are potentially others who've been left in the lurch like I was."

Mr Berwick put the blacklisting down to the Super Clinic being run by private investors.

"This group of private investors are concerned with getting the most value from the capital that they can - there for telling the practice manager to run a very strict practice," he said.

"They are running it more for profit than care.

"It also comes down to Federal government lack of funding hospitals and medicine in general."

Federal Member for Page Kevin Hogan said he understood the situation was extremely distressing for Mr Berwick.

"When Patrick contacted our office we gave him a list of other local clinics where he could get regular check-ups following his heart surgery," he said.

Mr Hogan confirmed the Super Clinic was a privately owned and operated medical practice.

Lismore MP Janelle Saffin said Mr Berwick wasn't alone in his experience and called the situation deeply concerning.

"We all become quite attached to our doctors, they have our records, we get to know them, we get to trust them... to be told not to come back for for missing one appointment... is a little bit harsh," Ms Saffin said.

"I know of three other instances of this situation happening and People have become quite distressed. People are saying it is happening more.

"We've contacted the super clinic. We will have a discussion with them, and ask them whether this is the standard practice and I will tell them what I think.

Ms Saffin urged the public to continue to speak up about this kind of situation.

"I think if enough people make their views know about it, and particularly we, public leaders make our views known, hopefully they will hear us when we ask them to be a little bit more compassionate," she said.

"From what I hear, they see a lot of patients and they do irregular hours which is a good thing... but if this is a standard practice than that concerns me, even more so for practices who have been able to establish themselves with a lot of public money.

"If things like this happen, please contact us, so we know what's going on."

The Lismore GP Super Clinic was contacted for comment but did not respond before The Northern Star's deadline.