Covering the Goulburn and Murray valleys

Shepparton methadone program may cease

Shepparton's only methadone clinic may be forced into closure following a dispute over access to the rear of the Chemmart shop.

JOHN LEWIS November 10, 2012 4:58am

Chemmart's Aaron Sik and Nicole Pelaez.

Shepparton doctors have said the threatened closure of the city’s only methadone clinic would create an ‘‘appalling situation’’, which would need to be rectified by municipal authorities.

Maude St Chemmart business co-owner Nicole Pelaez said unless a dispute over access to the rear of her shop was resolved, she would be forced to shut down the methadone program which she has been running for six months.

Ms Pelaez said the ongoing dispute is harming her business.

‘‘We’ll have to consider our options. We are seriously considering withdrawing the methadone program — we have done our best for the community, but it’s not our core business,’’ she said.


In a letter to The News, three medical practioners — medical head of the Substance Abuse and Dependence Service at Goulburn Valley Health Dr Andrew Lovett, Primary Care Connect GP Dr Paul MacCartney and Mooroopna and Kialla GP Dr John McKellar have voiced their support for Ms Pelaeze, saying her methadone program plays a ‘‘vital role’’ in providing compassionate treatment.

‘‘I am extremely disappointed to hear that the program at Chemmart may not be able to continue due to pressure from local businesses,’’ Dr MacCartney said.

‘‘This would leave Shepparton without a dispensing pharmacy which is an appalling situation. If this was to occur I feel the municipality may need to consider providing a facility for patients who are also its constituents,’’ he said.

The dispute centres on access to a treatment room which requires methadone patients to walk through a door and down a passageway in the Centrepoint arcade, past male and female toilets and through a second door to the treatment room.

Centrepoint body corporate traders have voted to restrict access to the toilets by locking the first passageway door.

Each shop owner has a key and must escort customers who wish to use the toilets.

Centrepoint Owners Corporation independent manager Andrea Tuohey said the toilets were not public facilities and traders had been concerned at their misuse.

‘‘They are not stopping methadone patients using the rear entrance, but all customers have to be delivered to the door,’’ Ms Tuhoey said.

Ms Pelaez said she did not have enough staff to escort up to 70 methadone patients to the door every day.

‘‘We would like to have a key at the front which we can give them to let themselves in,’’ she said.

Dr Lovett said he was ‘‘apalled’’ at misinformation being spread about the methadone program.

‘‘This is extremely unhelpful to both patients and the community,’’ Dr Lovett said.

‘‘Opiate-dependent people are citizens with a well-understood medical problem.

‘‘Many patients are middle class with no previous drug problem until they have an injury, or illness, which leads to pain and they develop a dependence on opiates.’’

He said Shepparton had the same proportion of people addicted to opiates as any other area in the state.

Patients seeking information on treatment for addiction should contact their local GP, Primary Care Connect, or phone DirectLine on 1800 888 236.

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