Advocacy group supports urgent care clinics, calls for primary health expansion

Story originally published in The Examiner –

A health consumer advocacy group sees the Federal government’s urgent care clinics as a welcome addition to Tasmania’s health service landscape, believing more entry points for care other than GPs are needed.

Four care clinics will be established in Launceston, Devonport and Hobart under a deal that will be jointly funded by the state and Federal governments.

Concerns about how the Tasmanian clinics will be staffed, and the impacts on existing GP clinics, have been raised by the Australian Medical Association.

Health Consumers Tasmania chief executive Bruce Levett said traditional healthcare services, such as GP clinics and emergency departments, can no longer cope with increasing demand.

He said any initiative that allows greater opportunities for consumers to receive the care they needed was welcome.

“What is missing and desperately needed is building more entry points for consumers into the health system,” Mr Levett said.

“Tasmanians no longer want a piecemeal approach to ‘fixing’ health and they understand that more of the same no longer works. Health Consumers Tasmania has evidence that some Tasmanians are already desperately seeking healthcare support through any means possible because, and not blaming GPs, but GP’s can no longer cope with the bottleneck that is occurring at their front door.”

Mr Levett said Tasmanians say that general practice is no longer the best way to deliver health care to rural and regional locations, and they need continuity of care delivered in innovative ways.

“This could include expanding the frontline primary care workforce to include pharmacies, nurse practitioners, community nurses, peer workers, allied health, and an expanded telehealth service,” Mr Levett said.

“A move away from transactional primary care to chronic condition management and coordinated care…the corporatisation of primary care is not popular, and it is occurring at the expense of consumer centred care.

Mr Levett said while the urgent care initiative was supported, it needed to be adequately resourced and consumers needed more of a say on how they should operate.

“They [need to] be resourced appropriately to deliver the quality care required by the community,” he said.

“Health Consumers Tasmania is disappointed that we have not been consulted at any stage of their establishment, communities need to have a say on where they are located and what services they deliver.”