THE doctor operating Albury’s abortion clinic says it would be unviable to transfer the practice to Wodonga to take advantage of Victoria’s safe access zone law.
The Englehardt Street clinic is subject to regular vigils by anti-abortionists and a bid this week by Albury’s deputy mayor Amanda Cohn to introduce a by-law stopping protests within 150 metres of the building was rejected 6-3 by her council.
Fertility Control Clinic doctor Kathy Lewis, who travels from Melbourne to practice at the premises, said the Victorian parliamentary law stopping harassment and intimidation of those entering abortion surgeries had been a success.
“The difference it has made to our practice in Melbourne in terms of stress is phenomenal,” Dr Lewis said.
But she said other state differences made a transfer of the Albury operation to Wodonga unfeasible.
“There’s completely different requirements for registration of the clinic, with the type of procedures we do in NSW compared to what we do in Victoria,” Dr Lewis said.
She said staff and accreditation needs meant operations in Victoria amounted to a “day hospital”.
“The clinics we have in Melbourne operate five to six days a week, so we have a lot more patient through levels, but for Albury it wouldn’t be justified,” Dr Lewis said.
“We would be charging an arm and a leg for a procedure.”
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Dr Lewis also responded to suggestions that patients at Englehardt Street could use a rear entrance to avoid those who gather outside the front door.
Dr Lewis said rear access was “not appropriate” because a back entrance opens on to a steriliser room.
At this week’s council meeting, councillor Graham Docksey argued the clinic should have patients use a back door to avoid any confrontations along the street.
“A simple solution would be for the staff of the clinic to notify every client that they may drive into the driveway at the rear of the clinic and gain access via the rear door in a vehicle,” Cr Docksey said.
“There is sufficient room for vehicles to park or manoeuvre at the rear area of the building, it appears that common sense is not being practised in this particular case.
“This way those assembling outside cannot block the entry of a vehicle into the property, because if they do so it is simply a police matter.”