Prime Minister Anthony Albanese was in Perth yesterday announcing seven Urgent Care Clinics that will open across WA to ease pressure on emergency departments.
The Urgent Care Clinics planned nationwide were an election promise to help ease the burden on overstretched hospital emergency services.
Interviewed on ABC Radio Perth Drive, the Prime Minister explained how the Urgent Clinics would run.
“What the idea of Urgent Care Clinics is- is just that, urgent care. It’s not for a prescription which is there for your GP regular activity,” he said.
“This is about urgent care, to take pressure off the hospital system of emergency departments.”
The Prime Minister further explained that the clinics were for urgent, but not acute cases, adding that they are a health facility in between local GP service where you go for the normal activity, and the emergency departments of hospitals.
“Like you have your little boy or girl falls off their skateboard, falls off their bike, a broken limb, something that needs stitches, something that needs that level of attention, where normally, now, people would go to an emergency department and wait for a long period of time,” he said for example.
When questioned about shortages of healthcare workers in WA to staff the clinics the prime minister admitted that it would be a challenge, but it was a challenge that needed to be dealt with at the same time as dealing with hospital management.
“We’re putting in place structures to deliver a better health service for everyone, particularly those people who can’t get access to service at the moment, or who end up in EDs and therefore are clogging up the system when they could get the right amount of care in the right place.
“Importantly, we went through and engaged with the AMA and the Royal Australian College of General Practitioners, and went through people who are health service providers to come up with this model. It works very effectively.
“So, for example, the facility we visited in Morley today, that will put in, no doubt, an expression of interest as part of this process, they have on-site X-ray facilities, they have a pharmacy, they have pathology facilities. So those sorts of services can really take pressure off the system, and by ensuring as well that they’re open late at night, till 10:00 at least, will be part of the conditions as well.
“We believe this will be a really constructive way forward.”
There are seven Urgent Care Centre centres planned for WA. The Prime Minister is expecting three of them to be up and running in Perth City, Joondalup and Rockingham by 1 July.
The remaining four in Murdoch, Midland, Bunbury and Broome to be up by the end of the year.
Asked about the criticism that the model of urgent care was not affordable or sustainable, the Prime Minister argued that the clinics would be free and bulk-billed.
“This will be a part of the system that we’ve worked through with state and territory governments,” he said.
While the clinics may be attached to some hospitals, they will largely be attached to an existing GP service.
The Prime Minister added that there would be no funding for infrastructure to build a facility.
“There is funding, however which will be available for infrastructure to perhaps build on a wing or to help with the specialist services that aren’t available in existing facility like an X-ray facility.”
The funding will be available as part of this commitment for 50 Urgent Care Clinics right around the country, the Prime Minister said.
“There are models shown overseas where this sort of system does work- And that’s why we really want this to be available for people, because at the moment, we know that we have issues with primary healthcare. But we also have problems in our hospital networks right around the country.”
I think that GP practices should be encouraged to open after hours and on the weekends, to take the load off the hospital system, especially for skin tears in the elderly population, as they can easily become chronic ulcers, if not attended to by a nurse as soon as possible. We don’t necessarily have to wait for the Urgent Care Clinics to open, we just need to pay for the practice nurse, as well as a receptionist to work after hours, with a GP on call.