Staff at a Border clinic that grew to meet the community's diverse needs appreciate being recognised for their efforts.
The honour, announced last month, has been a timely boost after 18 months of COVID interruptions, according to GP Sharon Johnson and business manager Joanne Zamperoni.
"It's been a real encouragement for the whole team that we are doing a good job," Dr Johnson said.
Mrs Zamperoni said the practice began in 2012 and had about 20 staff - doctors, nurses and administration.
"Some (doctors) have come with their own interests and set up their own clinics, then we've accessed funding to support those and to support the nurse specialists that help run clinics," she said.
"I think we evolve and improve with time. The clinic is ambitious and keen to get funding to keep clinics operating."
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RACGP president Karen Price congratulated Gateway Health Wodonga on its state award, adding she could not think of a more deserved winner.
"This is an opportunity to recognise GPs and their teams for their hard work and say thank-you," Dr Price said.
"We have a lot of patients from vulnerable, disadvantaged backgrounds, whether that be alcohol and drug addiction, severe mental illness, homelessness or people who identify as gender diverse.
"Sometimes you feel that you're the right person for that patient at the right time and could be there for them in one of their hardest moments and do a good job, I think that's what gives me the most satisfaction in my work."
Staff members liaise closely together, with regular monthly meetings reviewing the existing services.
"But if something comes up in between, more corridor discussions just to scope out what everybody's thinking about," Dr Johnson said.
In the future the practice hopes to recruit more doctors and consider other programs post-pandemic.
"It would be nice just to have things cruise along at some kind of normal for a short time before we look to add anything new into the mix," the GP said with a smile.
As restrictions hit and patients struggled to access telehealth and border permits, Gateway Health Wodonga staff assisted where they could, for example setting up a telehealth room at the practice that people could use and remain COVID-safe.
"This was really important for those without the required technology or a safe space at home for a confidential medical conversation," Dr Johnson said.
Grant funding helped the practice produce videos in Swahili and Kinyarwanda about COVID-19 infection control and information about vaccinations.
Mrs Zamperoni said with many in the community now "COVID fatigued", the practice also wanted to look after its staff and avoid burn-out.
"Making sure that people have breaks and have time out when they need it, because I think it's really important for everybody - patients, staff, reception, GPs, nurses," she said.
"It has definitely been a journey, COVID."
The business manager said the practice had experienced "up and downs" related to GP shortages like many clinics.
"We've been lucky in the past two years to actually recruit some really good GPs who are interested in our philosophy of what we do, our mission of the practice, it's been a good ride," she said.
"We've still got a long way to go, still have lots of vision."
Dr Johnson said she loved the team work at Gateway Health Wodonga.
"Everybody is really supportive of each other and I think that's what really makes the clinic what it is," she said.
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