We work with many dentists who are taking the leap into owning their own practice. It’s an exciting time but also can be very stressful. Most of the practitioners that we deal with are very proficient health care professionals but are cautious first-timers when it comes to the logistical and financial challenge of setting up a functioning, profitable health care facility.
Selection of a location is one of the fundamental first steps and can mean the difference between success and failure. From our experience, small shopping centres or shops immediately nearbyare the best choice for start-up practices. Pedestrian traffic, parking and exposure are the key elements. The increased rent charged for premises in shopping centres is more than offset by increases in traffic flow and these sites often cater for needs such as parking, and potentially expensive requirements such as disabled access and amenities, fire provisions and compliance with NSW Health infection control policies.
A shopping centre that contains a medical centre, a pharmacy or some other related health care professional provides a definite advantage. Don’t even be scared if there is already a dentist there. Multiple facilities quickly create the presence of a ‘dental destination’ that draws patients from surrounding areas.
Other public amenities that have been seen to make a marked difference in practice success are train stations and schools, and we have also noted a great benefit from commercial office blocks.
It is very common for a surgery to start with one treatment room with space to add another chair once the practice gets up and running. 70-85m2 is a good size that can be fitted out well with one chair, OPG, sterilization room, reception and waiting area, and possibly an administration office and bathroom. A second treatment room is left empty or as storage until the practice patient base justifies fitting it out and using it.
If the premises has existing rooms that are about 3.2m x 3.5m these are a good size for a surgery room, but in most cases we suggest removing existing internal partitioning and re-designing. The cost of new internal wall fittings is more than offset by the improved use of space once the practice is open. We have achieved very comfortable, ergonomic and profitable layouts in very pokey spaces.
The other point of stress for dentists setting up for the first time is council approvals. Development Applications are very daunting and many don’t know where to start. Council approvals can be painful, time consuming and expensive. From our experience, if you are a dentist you are better off attending to patients and getting someone to do the council approval for you. You can search for a planner near you or ask your specialist medical fitout company to handle it for you.
We found that over the years we became familiar with the regulations and the idiosyncrasies of different councils in the Sydney area. We also found that sticking with one principal certifier helped us enormously. The whole process involves a lot of waiting on hold, and waiting for replies from many different parties like real estate agents, building managers and council or heritage officers. A great deal of the work requires compliance certificates to be issued by the relevant tradespeople so make sure you use trades that are licenced and know their responsibilities under the Building Code of Australia and associated Australian Standards. Developing relationships with some of the parties like certifiers, fire engineers and councils has, in recent times, allowed us to get results much more quickly and at reduced expense for our clients. Provided your premises is already zoned correctly it is often possible to certify a surgery as a Complying Development, negating the need for a full Development Application. This can save you many months and many thousands of dollars of council fees and other costs.
The preliminary site selection and approval process can be daunting but once it’s taken care of you can quickly move into construction and the grand opening of your new practice!
We are always happy to have a chat about any stage of your project. We are happy to provide friendly advice to anyone.
For more information on medical or dental clinic location selection and council approval, please contact us today.