JOURNALIST So, we've got some emergency clinics opening up, one's going to be here in Coffs. Is that right?
EMMA MCBRIDE, ASSISTANT MINISTER That's right, we've seen in this Budget, over $358 million extra invested in Urgent Care Centres, that'll mean that there'll be 58, across Australia, and there'll be one right here in Coffs Harbour. What these are intended to do is relieve the pressure on our emergency departments, while giving people the kind of care that might be more urgent than what can be provided at their general practice, but not life threatening and requiring a visit to an emergency department. We know how stretched our hospital emergency departments are, and we're really pleased to be able to make this additional investment so that in communities like Coffs Harbour, people will be able to walk in, without an appointment, free of charge and get that urgent care that they need. We know that the further you live outside of a big city in Australia, the worse your health outcomes are likely to be, and we're determined as the government to do everything we can to help to turn that around.
JOURNALIST What sort of examples would you say people attending that sort of clinic would present with?
EMMA MCBRIDE, ASSISTANT MINISTER It might be that someone has an earache or a break or a sprain, and they're unable to get into their GP but they don't need to go to an emergency department and wait, you know, four hours or more for that kind of care. We've seen this model work effectively elsewhere and the states and territories are very supportive of the model. And with that additional investment, we're now going to be able to see, as I said, 58 Urgent Care Centres across Australia, we know that expressions of interest in New South Wales have closed, that Primary Health Networks, including Healthy North Coast, are looking at those expressions of interest at the moment. There'll be some Urgent Care Clinics up and running by July. But we'll see the rest of those scheduled to be up and running by the end of the year.
JOURNALIST As I understand it, t's just an existing GP service, basically broadening the scope, is that correct?
EMMA MCBRIDE, ASSISTANT MINISTER That's exactly right. What we wanted to do was invest in general practice, we value primary care, and the work that general practitioners are doing in their communities. This model will mean that an existing general practice can put in an expression of interest, which will mean that they'll get extra support from the Commonwealth to be able to either extend the hours, extend the scope of practice, which will build on the work that they're doing in their community, it's just another way that we're investing in primary care in general practice.
JOURNALIST Will this reduce the strain on emergency services? Emergency care is completely overwhelmed at the moment.
EMMA MCBRIDE, ASSISTANT MINISTER Yes, and that's one of the other intentions of this is to reduce the strain on our already clogged up emergency departments. We know that people can wait hours in an emergency department and this will be a presentation that would otherwise be avoidable, someone will be able to get that care at an Urgent Care Clinic and not have to wait hours in an emergency department and clog up that care for someone else who has a more life threatening or serious condition.
JOURNALIST I guess the bottom line is that you don't have really enough staff, isn't it? There's a massive short staffing issue where a lot of nurses are double shifts. I spoke to a nurse the other day, and she said there was 41 shifts that weren't filled that morning at the hospital. So that's the big problem isn't it that we're facing?
EMMA MCBRIDE, ASSISTANT MINISTER And this is the thing that we've seen in Australia. There's a shortage of healthcare workers, but also a challenge of where they work. And we want to make sure that we've got the right practitioners with the right skills and training, working in communities right across Australia. One of the things that we've done is wipe the Help Debt of a medical graduate from the first of January, who wants to and is willing to work in the most remote parts of Australia. We've also introduced the single employer model, which will mean that doctors in training can move seamlessly from their hospital training through to working as registrars in general practice. We're also investing in innovative models of care because we know team based care is the right kind of care. It's integrated, it's collaborative, and our investment in innovative models of care will also support practices like CHC here and the work that they're doing.
JOURNALIST States like WA have already brought back their unvaccinated staff is that a consideration because any help would be good, wouldn't it? You have lost a few, there were hundreds involved in those marches early on. And every other sort of industries, has overturned that policy. And it's been overturned in WA as well, hasn't it?
EMMA MCBRIDE, ASSISTANT MINISTER These are decisions for the state and territory governments. What we're trying to do is make sure that from a Commonwealth perspective, we can invest as strongly as we can in primary care to deal with that pipeline of workforce, to give them the right sort of support, to be able to provide that care so that we can retain the health workers that we have, so that we can create the future health care workers to be able to help overcome those recruitment and retention challenges that we face.
What we have done in this budget is invest $3.5 billion in tripling the bulk billing incentive and what we're looking to see through that is practices, like a practice here be able to bulk bill children, young children, and older people to make sure that the most vulnerable Australians can get access to the care and support they need, when they need it affordably and close to home. And I'm so pleased to be here today in Coffs Harbour, and to have met with clinicians who are passionate about their communities who are dedicated to providing that kind of care. We're being able to give them a bit more financial support to be able to provide that quality care to local people.
JOURNALIST Do you think you're going to be able to access more staff to sort of be able to accommodate all these extra services?
EMMA MCBRIDE, ASSISTANT MINISTER Well, we're working very closely with the states and territories on that health workforce pipeline. It's the biggest challenge that we face and it's one that we're determined to turn around. We're doing that by investing in more Commonwealth supported places for medical students, by investing in scholarships for nursing students, by investing strongly in the psychology pipeline of the psychology workforce, by supporting in this budget 500 more postgraduate places, 500 more provisional psychology places, and 2000 more supervisory places.
What we're working on is closing those gaps in services making sure that those urgent needs are addressed whilst at the same time building that pipeline of health workforce and we know that when you train health workers in regional and remote communities, they're much more likely to live and work and practice in those communities.