Urgent care centres not a solution to Australia's health crisis

The Australian Medical Association (AMA) is unconvinced by Labor’s plan to develop 50 urgent care centres because they will not tackle the major problems facing Australia’s health system.

“These centres will do little to relieve the hospital logjam, will further fragment care and will unfairly compete with nearby general practices which, without this government funding, will not be able to keep their doors open after hours,” AMA President Dr Omar Khorshid said.

“The plan acknowledges costs faced by general practices in opening after hours, but instead of enabling thousands of practices across the country to improve their offering to patients, it focusses on only 50 practices, using a model reminiscent of the failed Rudd era GP Super Clinics,” he said.

“Medicare reform is urgently needed to enable general practices to deliver the primary care that our patients need.”

The Labor Party on Wednesday released its plan to fund 50 Medicare Urgent Care Clinics based at GP surgeries across the country to take pressure off emergency departments by providing an alternative for families needing urgent care.

Dr Khorshid said: “Rather than piecemeal announcements, both major political parties need to tackle the real issues facing our health system and a commitment to properly funding the Government’s 10 Year Primary Health Care Plan implementation would be a good start.”

Dr Khorshid also criticised the Federal Government’s recent relaunch of the 10 Year Primary Health Care Plan because it had no funding and without funding it was little more than a piece of paper with words on it.

“The AMA is yet to see a real vision for the health system from any of the major parties – all we have seen so far are short-term suggestions aimed at winning an election,” he said.

“If Labor wants to improve access to after-hours care for Australians, an obvious step would be to amend the definition of ‘after hours’ to commence at 6pm on weekdays and 12 noon on a Saturday.

“This will increase the Medicare rebate for Australians accessing these services and therefore reduce out of pocket costs.  This is just one of the reforms proposed by our Modernise Medicare campaign.”