NSW & Vic to get state-funded urgent care clinics

3 minute read

RACP calls for access to specialist physicians and paediatricians in the GP-centred urgent care clinics announced this week.

By this time next year, the country will be awash with urgent care clinics: on top of the federal promise for 50 such clinics nationwide, two state governments have now promised to open an extra 50 between them.

While funding and operational details for the federal clinics remain murky, the state versions will be supported by grants and be focussed on expanding existing GP services.

On Tuesday, premiers Dan Andrews and Dominic Perrottet announced their respective states would each be opening 25 urgent care clinics, designed to ease pressure on the hospital emergency system.

The announcement came with hefty promises, including that the clinics will be open for extended hours each day and that everyone, even non-Medicare card holders, will be treated free of charge by a GP.

RACGP Victoria chair Dr Anita Muñoz said that both state governments had been encouraged by the success of GP-run respiratory clinics in the early phases of the pandemic.

“What we found with the pandemic was that GPs were able to offer additional hours to participate in pandemic response initiatives and they didn’t have to reduce their hours in clinic to do that,” she told The Medical Republic.

The Royal Australasian College of Physicians (RACP) said in a media release that it supports the announcement of the urgent care clinics but said they must include access to specialist physicians and paediatricians.

 “These urgent care clinics are an important measure, but risk missing the opportunity to expand the scope of healthcare access if specialist physicians aren’t included in the integrated model of care,” RACP President Dr Jacqueline Small said.

“If the clinics are to be successful, it is vital that they are integrated with specialist medical care to truly address the health needs of our patients and our communities.

“The level of care people need is wide and diverse. If it’s not ‘all hands on deck’, then these clinics will fail to be a useful component of the healthcare system without the input of specialist physicians.

“We urge the NSW and Victorian governments to include access to specialist physicians and paediatricians in the models of care they are developing to support urgent care clinics,” Dr Small said.

The exact amount of money that practices will be able to receive under the state government grant system in return for participating in the program has not been announced yet.

Neither have the location details of any of the proposed NSW clinics, although wording in the announcement indicated that they will be established “where there is greatest need”.

Five GP-led sites in Victoria have already been announced, as have the partnering hospitals for 10 of the Victorian clinics.

The general locations of the final 10 Victorian clinics are expected soon.

It’s also unclear how different the state-based model will be to the other 50 urgent care clinics promised by Labor in the lead-up to this year’s election.

How those clinics, which are also expected to see all patients free of charge, will be funded is expected to be revealed after the October budget.  

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