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Closure Of Melbourne General Practice Leaves Victorian Methadone Users Without Treatment

The closure of the Frankston Healthcare Medical Centre in Melbourne is set to leave over 10 per cent of methadone users in Victoria without treatment.

Pharmacotherapy, recognised as an essential treatment for opioid dependency by the World Health Organization, is crucial to managing opioid addiction.

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In Victoria, there is a shortage of general practitioners providing prescriptions for the 15,000 patients who require pharmacotherapy treatment. 

The acting executive officer of the Victorian Alcohol and Drug Association, Scott Drummond, said the shortage has led to “an increasingly broken system”, making it difficult for patients to access the necessary treatment.

The closure of the Frankston Healthcare Medical Centre, a private general practice serving 1,800 drug-addicted patients, is due to a funding promise from the Victorian government falling through. 

This decision is expected to push around 500 patients they treat each week toward emergency departments.

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Patients who rely on methadone to manage their addiction are concerned about the closure. 

“This issue illustrates the fragility of Victoria’s pharmacotherapy system,” Drummond said.

Methadone treatment helps stabilise their lives and allows them to regain employment, preventing relapse into drug dependency.

However, Drummond said there was stigma and discrimination against people who use drugs, contributing to a significant workforce shortage. 

The closure of the Frankston Healthcare Medical Centre is not an isolated incident, as another general practice in Melbourne shut down just ten months ago, further exacerbating the issue.

The financial compensation for providing these services is also seen as inadequate, as many patients on healthcare cards require bulk billing. 

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