Minister Butler doorstop in Perth - 28 August 2023

Read the summary of Minister Butler's doorstop on Clarkson Medicare Urgent Care Clinic opening; WA Urgent Care Clinics

The Hon Mark Butler MP
Minister for Health and Aged Care

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MEMBER FOR PEARCE, TRACEY ROBERTS: Good morning, everybody. It’s great to be here at the Urgent Care Clinic in Clarkson at the Ocean Keys Family Practice. It's so incredibly important for our local area - it's one of the fastest growing areas in Australia - and already it's been incredibly busy. I'm joined by the Federal Minister for Health, the Honourable Mark Butler and also the State Minister for Health, Amber-Jade Sanderson who does an amazing job. Both Ministers are working closely together and engaging and understanding the need for local communities. So, without any further ado, I'm going to hand over now to the Federal Minister, Mark Butler, to talk about this great initiative and how important it is to our local community. Thank you.
MINISTER FOR HEALTH AND AGED CARE, MARK BUTLER: Thanks, Tracey. Tracey has just been an extraordinary advocate for better health services in her part of Perth, building on a really long, distinguished career as a local Mayor in this area, and now really kicking goals as a Federal Member of Parliament. Thank you, Tracey, for all that you're doing, and for your wise advice and support as we seek to make it easier to see a doctor than it has been for, frankly, too many years. It's great also to be here with my friend and colleague, Amber-Jade Sanderson, we're working so closely together as we come out of a truly awful period of three years of pandemic to build more resilient healthcare services right across the country. It's been terrific to spend some time with Amber-Jade again this morning and with her state colleague, Mark, as well.
This is the third Urgent Care Clinic we've opened in Western Australia of the seven that we committed to at the last election. All seven will be operating, as I promised, by the end of 2023. This urgent care model is a relatively new model for Australia. It seeks to provide patients and members of the community with an option to seek urgent care for non-life-threatening emergencies, short of going to a fully equipped hospital emergency department. It is effectively a model somewhere in between standard general practice on the one hand, and a fully equipped hospital emergency department.
We know that right across the country, about half of all the 8 million presentations every year to hospital emergency departments are classified as semi-urgent or non-urgent and so many of them could be quite adequately cared for in a service just like this one, if it was open, if it was free, if it was well advertised to the community. So, this is all about making it easier for people to access the care they need when and where they need it, but also taking much needed pressure off our strained hospital emergency departments.
What this does is operate seven days a week, extended hours and, importantly, will be fully bulk billed for urgent non-life-threatening emergencies: think about your kid falling off the skateboard and fracturing their wrist or an urgent need for attendance to an ear infection or a urinary tract infection. Those sorts of things that can quite adequately be dealt with in a primary care setting like this, but too often because it's so hard to find a GP today, end up in the hospital emergency departments. I'm delighted that the Clarkson Medicare Urgent Care Clinic has been able to open last week. It's already going gangbusters, you can tell that in the waiting room there. It saw over 50 patients on the Sunday yesterday, many of whom would have had to go to the Joondalup emergency department if there wasn't a service like this one.
So, thank you, Tim, for expressing interest in this and wanting to take your practice up to the next level and be one of these really exciting networks of Urgent Care Clinics across the country. It will make it easier to see a doctor for members of the community. And importantly, it will take much needed pressure off our hospital emergency departments.
WESTERN AUSTRALIAN MINISTER FOR HEALTH, AMBER-JADE SANDERSON: It's great to be here at the Clarkson Urgent Care Clinic. The state government very, very warmly welcomes the Commonwealth's commitment to improving access to primary health care. And one of the ways they're increasing their investment is with this network of Urgent Care Clinics. The development of these clinics has been hand in hand with the state government and I welcome that partnership from the Commonwealth. We know that there are a lot of people sitting in our emergency department waiting rooms who are triaged at around four or five - which is lower acuity triage level - but they still need to see a doctor and they don't necessarily want to be in an emergency department, but there just hasn't been another option. So, this is going to provide another safe option, and it is free for the community to come – if you've got a child who's got a sports injury, or an earache or something else that doesn't require an emergency medicine specialist, but does need urgent medical care.
This will also complement the significant investment from the state government around improving access to emergency care. We are significantly reforming and investing in our ambulance service, we're seeing significant increase and uplift in staffing in our hospital system: over 500 beds added to our hospital system in the last two years. As well as significant reform, adding also important models of care like virtual care and supporting our older Australians to avoid emergency departments. The only way we're going to be able to deliver the right health care, at the right place, in time for the community, is if all levels of government are working together. That's why this is such a great addition and a welcome addition to the healthcare landscape.
DR TIM KOH, GENERAL PRACTITIONER: It's nice to be here today and welcoming the Ministers to the practice. We've been delighted with the start we've had, we've gotten up and away this week and we’ve been seeing large volumes of patient really from the get-go. It has been really surprising - the need that's out there - and it’s all the sort of presentations that both Ministers have mentioned: sick kids, sports injuries, a manner of things. It is nice to be able to support people and give them an option not to go to hospital.
JOURNALIST: So, we've got four more coming by the end of this calendar year, that's going to be quite rapid - one a month?
BUTLER: That’s right. The Western Australian Primary Health Alliance has been managing the tender process for us, obviously working very closely with the state government to make sure we've got the operational protocols right - between this network and the hospital systems to make sure that the scope of practice is right so that this is truly for urgent care services. But we're very confident we'll have them up and running by the end of the year, all seven of the services in WA and all 58 of the services across the country.
JOURNALIST: Can you walk us through those four and what we’re going to be seeing rolled out?
BUTLER: This model will be rolled out in Murdoch, in Midland, in Bunbury, and up in Broome as well. This gives us a good selection of services in urban and rural, and some remote areas across the country. As I've said, this is a relatively new model for Australia, it’s done a lot in other countries to which we usually compare ourselves, but it's relatively new here. As we build this service, we will make it easier for patients like those who are here today to get the care they need, but we also want to evaluate it clearly so that we can determine how to scale it up even more over the coming years. And to do this, having that mix of urban, rural and remote services which we have here in WA, will be incredibly valuable for our learning.
JOURNALIST: Has there been a bit of a rush to meet that target?
BUTLER: No. I think this has been done steadily at a good pace to make sure that people understand what's involved if they want to put their business forward in the tender process. But as I said, we also worked very closely with all state governments, including the WA state government, to make sure that they were very clear operational protocols - that people were going to come to the right place at the right time, and that there was the right scope of practice as well. So, we've done this carefully, but we've also made sure that we're able to meet the election commitment we gave to the Australian people and the Western Australian community last year, that these will be up and running by the end of 2023.
JOURNALIST: Have these been doctors and GP practices that have been converted, or are they brand new?
BUTLER: We’re also conscious as we talked to the general practice community in particular that they were concerned about us building new services in their community. That has happened under some models in the past. So instead, what we did was: go out to the general practice community and ask for expressions of interest from existing practices like Dr Koh's, who want to take their practice to the next level with government support, and provide this additional service, as well as the traditional GP services that are, for example, still being provided at this service.
JOURNALIST: Can I ask for an update on the WA Government's business case? And also, just from your perspective, are you concerned about constraints at the QEII, signs that we've seen, that have been the reason why the Women and Babies’ Hospital has been relocated down to Murdoch, is that a concern for you?
BUTLER: I’ll let Amber-Jade deal with that particular question about the operation of some of the WA hospital system. But we're very determined to make sure that we have a network of Comprehensive Cancer Centres around the country, making sure that we deliver the best world quality cancer care to Australians, but also networking on research and innovation, as well. We've got a wonderful record in cancer care here in Australia. But we are living through this turbocharged period of discovery, that really does mean that governments and clinicians need to network much more than perhaps they have in the past. We're committed to working closely with the Western Australian Government to make sure that we get the model of the Western Australian Comprehensive Cancer Centre right, and having the business case that the Western Australian Government is leading is really the first step in making sure we do that.
SANDERSON: We're in the process of doing the business case with the proponent, as you know, there are existing services and buildings where the proposed Comprehensive Cancer Centre is due to go or proposed to go. So obviously we have to work through that, it is a complex site. That’s around 12 months, and that's a fairly lengthy period, but that was at the request of the proponent because of the complexity.
JOURNALIST: It’s obviously a challenging site, we’ve gone through what those multitude of challenges are. But do you see, for this type of establishment, there being fewer problems than a full-scale hospital?
SANDERSON: It is a different proposal. It's a very different proposal than the Women’s and Newborns, which was also attached to the Sir Charles Gardiner – an existing tertiary hospital with important services that need to continue. This is more of a standalone service, notwithstanding that it is a challenging site, it's a constrained site. We're very focused as a government, as well, on working through the parking issues that are currently there, and we'll work constructively with the proponent on what that site throws up. But again, it's not the same kind of proposal, and you certainly wouldn't have been able to have built both at the same time. So, to have the Women’s and Newborns and the Comprehensive Cancer Centre under construction on that site would have been completely prohibited.
JOURNALIST: We see the playground which you turned the sod on the other day, does it represent once the Cancer Centre takes up that site, is QEII totally locked up notwithstanding maybe some parking solutions?
SANDERSON: QEII has a really important future in our healthcare landscape. And it's also a really important research hub. We'll work with the QEII Trust on our master plan for that and determine its future and work with the stakeholders. There's a multitude of owners, so UWA has an important stake, as well as some of those research institutions, as well of course, the health system and North Metro. We will work through a master plan for the site to ensure its future.
ROBERTS: I'd like to officially thank Dr Koh, I know how hard he's worked. Thank you, Dr Koh and your team for all of your diligence and work. This is an announcement that was made not that long ago and here we are at the official opening. It's a fast-growing area, our median age is 32, we have a lot of young families, and we have a lot of seniors. So, the demographic is incredibly important with regard to making sure that we have the right facilities to help them. So, Dr Koh, thank you so much once again and thank you to your team.

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