Tuesday, 17 October 2023
I rise today to talk about urgent care clinics, and particularly the opening of the Old Port Road Medical and Dental Centre as a Medicare urgent care clinic in the western suburbs of Adelaide.
Urgent care has been something that a whole range of providers in the primary care sector have been trying to establish and make work for many years. It's a very well-known, understood model in many other countries to which we would usually compare ourselves, most notably New Zealand, where it is a very, very developed model of care. There's a particular college of urgent care that recognises this as a particular discipline in medical practice. Having had that in place for as long as New Zealand has, when you compare the emergency department presentation rate per capita in that country to ours, there is a yawning gap. It is much, much lower.
We know that, particularly when it's hard to see a doctor out of hours or on the weekend, when your kid falls off their skateboard or you have an emergency that is not necessarily life-threatening but requires urgent attention if you can't get in to see your GP too often your only option is to attend a fully equipped hospital emergency department. We know that around half of all presentations to emergency departments across Australia, around a million every year, are what are classified as non-urgent or semi-urgent presentations.
What lay at the heart of our policy at the last election to establish at least 50 urgent care clinics around Australia was not only making it easier to see a doctor when and where people needed for these non-life-threatening emergencies but also taking pressure off the hospital emergency department system at a time when it's never been higher. We know that there is a background increase in acuity across an older population, with more chronic disease, but there is also the legacy of deferred care arising from the pandemic.
That's why I'm so delighted that, by the end of this year, 58 urgent care clinics will be in place across Australia. Already a couple of dozen are open and operating. They've provided services to around 50,000 Australians already. Remarkably, a third of them have been kids under 15, falling off their skateboards and doing those things that kids do. Being able to attend these clinics that are open seven days a week, with extended hours, often into the evening, and fully bulk-billed means they don't have to spend hour upon hour waiting at the hospital emergency department with mum, dad or both.
I'm delighted that we have been able to open one of those in the western suburbs of Adelaide, the Western Medicare Urgent Care Clinic. I'm really confident it will not only make a difference in making it easier to see a doctor in that part of Adelaide but also take much-needed pressure off the hospitals in the area, the Royal Adelaide Hospital and the Queen Elizabeth Hospital.