Gold Coast revolution: how health services are adapting to the region’s changing demographics

News - 04 Sep 2021

As one of Australia’s fastest growing cities, the Gold Coast is attracting more people from capital cities than ever before, with 11 per cent of people who moved from a capital city during the March 2021 quarter now calling the Gold Coast home

Not only is the region growing, but it is also seeing a shift in the demographics of its residents. Once known for being home to an aging population, the Gold Coast welcomed the largest cohort of millennials to a regional area over the past 10 years – almost 25,000 people.

With this shift in demographics, the Gold Coast University Hospital (GCUH) has seen a dramatic change in the types of services it now offers – compared to just seven years ago.

Dr Susan Moloney, Head of Paediatrics at Gold Coast University Hospital, said as the region grew, the hospital became more self-sufficient by increasing the scope of services it provided locally.

“When I first started on the Gold Coast almost 22 years ago the region was seen as an older and aging population, but now it is becoming a younger generation as more families move to the area,” Dr Moloney said.

“Not only is there an increase to the population, but we are also seeing an increase in the number of people, particularly children, requiring additional health services and facilities.”

Dr Moloney said that while typically most children’s wards were decreasing in size, hers in the GCUH was growing rapidly and becoming more advanced in its offerings.

“While we have grown our services and sub-specialties, we are also increasing our at home offering to allow patients to access allied health services at home or in their community from a local provider.

One project that will help meet this need and provide a hub for paediatric health, childhood development and childcare is Proxima. This $80 million development sits within Lumina at the Gold Coast Health and Knowledge Precinct, will house medical professionals from around the Precinct to provide best practice care.

Founding tenant, Sanctuary Early Learning Adventure, will pioneer a new model for integrated childcare, drawing on the expertise of paediatric specialists at Proxima and at the nearby Gold Coast University and Gold Coast Private Hospitals, as well as students and researchers from Griffith University.

According to the Queensland Government’s Children’s Health and Wellbeing Services Plan, the Gold Coast’s population of 0-to-19-year olds is set to increase by 22 per cent between 2017 and 2027.

Dr Moloney said the increasing number of children in the region enabled the NDIS to provide an increased level of early intervention to children at risk, as a result there are now a number of additional paediatrics allied health providers in the local community that were now funded by NDIS packages.

“This is one of the many benefits Proxima will have to our region. We can now look to co-locate with allied health professional within the Precinct to make it easier for families and their children to access services all in one place.

“Not only this, but it also provides our workforce of the future with the opportunity to learn in situ onsite as well as on the wards being just a short distance from the hospital – which will be both incredibly beneficial and rewarding for students.

“But why should we stop here? Blue-sky thinking, it would be advantageous to have a paediatric focussed primary care centre nearby as part of the Precinct.

“Most people have their general practitioner and then they have their children’s doctor, they seem to be separate. Proxima could provide the ideal foundation to extend services beyond traditional medicine and allied health services to paediatric dental, pre- and post-natal clinics or even child health nursing,” Dr Moloney said.

Proxima will be an Australian-first early learning centre, with in-house access to allied paediatric health and research professionals. The hybrid childcare-paediatric health centre will be located within Lumina, the Queensland Government’s 9.5-hectare development dedicated to growing the life sciences, health and technology-related businesses within the Gold Coast Health and Knowledge Precinct.

Proxima currently has more than 65 per cent of its space committed to tenants in the allied health services for children sector and is expected to be complete by the end of 2022.