EMMA MCBRIDE, ASSISTANT MINISTER: We went to the election with a promise of making it easier to see a GP and to strengthen Medicare, because after almost a decade of cuts and neglect, it was never harder, or more expensive for people to see a doctor, particularly in rural and remote communities, including here in Cessnock in the Hunter. Which is why we made the biggest investment in Medicare in its 40 year history in the Budget, tripling the Bulk Billing Incentive to make it more affordable for local people in communities like Cessnock to be able to see a GP, that will benefit 5 million children and families around Australia and up to 7 million pensioners to make it much more affordable for them and easier to say a bulk billing GP. We also indexed the Medicare Rebate to make it easier to see a bulk billing GP. Today I'm proud to be part of the next stage of our investment in this region, the official opening of the Cessnock Urgent Care Clinic. This is a big investment in the local community to make it easier and more affordable to see a GP, someone will be able to walk in without an appointment and just use their Medicare card to be able to get urgent care. I know what a big difference it's already making the local community having seen patients since Tuesday, and we know that this will ease the pressure on Cessnock and Maitland Hospitals where up to 60 per cent of presentations are non-life threatening presentations, like when a kid falls off his skateboard and can be taken here by their parents where they can get the right care at the right time that's affordable. I would also like to recognise my colleague Dan Repacholi the Member for Hunter for his strong advocacy for your community in health care locally and I'd also like to recognise the Hunter New England PHN, particularly the CEO Richard Nankervis for the work that they have done as being part of commissioning four urgent care clinics in the region as part of more than a dozen in New South Wales. So I'll now hand over to Dan Repacholi the Member for Hunter and to say a few words.
DAN REPACHOLI, MEMBER FOR HUNTER: Thank you, Emma, and thank you all for being here today. 18 months ago I stood in front of the Cessnock Hospital with Albo, the now PM, saying that we're going to deliver an Urgent Care Clinic to Cessnock and this is what we have here right now the Urgent Care Clinic in Cessnock, what an amazing thing that we have for this region. This is a game changer for us here, to be able to walk in with your Medicare card and receive urgent care straight away without having to wait hours and hours in the emergency department is an amazing thing for people of this area. I know my daughters, when they're out there playing netball, basketball, if they hurt themselves or any of their friends hurt themselves, they can come to a place like this right here in Cessnock and get the care they need straightaway. This will relieve so much from our emergency departments at Cessnock and Maitland as well. This will be an amazing thing of what happens with this area and I thank the PHN, I want to thank Albo, I want to thank Minister Butler, Ged Kearney, Emma McBride as well, for all the work they've done in making sure that we can have Urgent Care Clinics all around Australia. This is one of 14 in New South Wales, and I can tell you, I'm so proud to have this in the Hunter electorate and I really think it'll be a massive benefit to our area. So thank you all.
JOURNALIST: For those who don't know, those types of things that say people would present to their ED with but can now present to be treated or to have something done to them, what are they and what can people present with?
MCBRIDE: So, an Urgent Care Clinic can see people with urgent but not life threatening presentations, so someone that might have fallen off their skateboard, hurt themselves on the footy field or on the netball court, someone who has a chronic condition, but that's been exacerbated that might be a respiratory condition, or cardiac condition. So, for someone who has had an accident or an injury, or also someone who's had an exacerbation of an existing chronic condition or an acute condition. So, someone who's too sick to see their GP, but not sick enough to end up in the emergency department.
JOURNALIST: And I suppose in terms of the emergency departments, we already know that people with acute emergencies aren't necessarily being seen in the response time that they need. So how will an Urgent Care Clinic like that directly affect response times?
MCBRIDE: We know that in hospital emergency departments at Cessnock and Maitland, that 60 per cent of presentations are for non-emergency where someone will be better served by coming to an Urgent Care Clinic like this, where they're going to be able to be seen more quickly and get the right kind of care in the right setting. At the same time, that'll reduce the pressure on the emergency departments so that the highly capable and dedicated staff there can see the very urgent presentations that they need to in the time they need to, because we know that timing makes such a big difference that particularly in some of these very acute presentations, minutes matter. This will be a big difference taking the pressure off emergency departments and making sure the patients can get the right care in the right setting and affordably.
JOURNALIST: I suppose in terms of staffing, what does the clinic need to have on staff and I suppose is there a centre that you're working towards. Say having a couple of doctors and nurse practitioners, things like that.
MCBRIDE: So the Commonwealth has gone through this process, working very closely with the States and Territories through the PHN to make sure in this commissioning process, that we've got providers that have got the right workforce, with the right skills, those doctors and nurses that we need to be able to provide this care consistently across the week. This Urgent Care Clinic here will be open from 8am to 6pm, and we know that they've got the workforce to be able to meet that demand, which we expect to grow as more people become aware of the Urgent Care Clinic. But it's something that was front of mind and the Commonwealth wanted to make sure that we worked very closely with New South Wales Health and, through the Primary Health Network to make sure through the commissioning process, that practices that put themselves forward had the right workforce with the right skills to be able to provide that care consistently across the week.
JOURNALIST: Of course, staffing in across the country has been quite tight across the medical profession for many years. So I suppose, how do you ensure that that stays consistent and that people are being attracted to places like Cessnock and Maitland.
MCBRIDE: This is something that is absolutely front of mind for the government and what we're working on is having a pipeline of workforce. So we've opened up another 100 Commonwealth Supported Places for medical students studying at rural universities, we've also increased the John Flynn Prevocational Scholarship Program, and that'll mean up to 1000 rotations in areas like this, where someone gets the experience of working in a regional or remote setting and becomes familiar with that kind of regional general practice, and also develops connections to those communities. We're also introducing the Single Employer Model which started in the Murrumbidgee in regional New South Wales, where a doctor in training can move seamlessly from their training at a local hospital to working in general practice. We're also wiping the university debt for doctors and nurse practitioners who want tom, and are open to, living and working in places like this. So, more places at rural universities, wiping the university debt, more placements in the right kind of rural and regional settings, and the Single Employer Model so that they can move seamlessly from their hospital training to working in Urgent Care Clinics like this. And talking to young doctors in training when I was in Wagga earlier this week. This is the kind of clinic that they'd like to practice in, where they can work to the top of their skills and training to provide urgent care within their own community. So I know that these Urgent Care Clinics are going to be a place that will attract really quality and dedicated doctors and nurses to provide that care within regional and communities.
JOURNALIST: Does it stop at the 50 odd across the country, is this just the first step? Are there plans to do another 50 across the country?
MCBRIDE: So as I said, we went to the election with a promise of strengthening Medicare, and making it easier and more affordable to see your GP because one of the biggest problems that people came to us with was the lack of access to health care. And we know that in Australia today, the further you live outside of a major centre, the worse your health outcomes are likely to be. For a woman my age, her life expectancy is 19 years shorter than a city counterpart. This is unacceptable, it absolutely has to change, which is why we made strengthening Medicare, the centrepiece of our Budget, and the next big stage of that is our Urgent Care Clinics. We're rolling out more than 50 around the country, and they'll all be open by the end of this year. We're really keen to see the uptake of the Urgent Care Clinics, we know it's going to reduce demand on how overstretched emergency departments and give people the right kind of care close to home. And importantly, attract doctors and nurse practitioners to our regions, where they'll be able to work to the top of their skills and training, working with those complex presentations, and being able to really contribute to health care in our regions. So I'm really pleased with the progress of the rollout so far, we're really encouraging the uptake of Urgent Care Clinics and we're genuinely focused on improving access and affordability particularly for those 7 million Australians that live outside of our capital cities.
JOURNALIST: And just on the ones that are in our region, they'll all be completed or open by the end of the year?
MCBRIDE: Yes. As a healthcare worker myself and I worked in Wyong hospital for nearly 10 years, I'm genuinely proud to be part of a government that's putting patients at the centre of care, and particularly those living in the regions. I was with Dr. Gordon Reid, the Member for Robertson just last week in Umina, which will be the location of the Urgent Care Clinic on the southern end of the Central Coast. We'll also have opening in Lake Haven, the Urgent Care Clinic for the north end of the Central Coast. And yes, they'll all be up and running by the end of this year. I know that that is such a relief to local people, particularly to families with young children and older people to be able to get affordable health care close to home will be a game changer in our community. I'm very pleased to be part of the rollout of these ones within our region but right around Australia. Thank you.