ACT doctors remain opposed to the nurse-led walk-in centre, despite today’s release of a supportive independent evaluation.
The Australian Medical Association’s ACT president Dr Iain Dunlop said AMA’s position had not changed since the release of the report, and it still believed Government money was better spent on integrated primary care.
“The report didn’t highlight anything we didn’t already know,” he said. “AMA believe that the primary care of patients should be based on an integrated model not separate.
“The money is better spent on practice nurses within exisiting general practices.”
He said the report, provided by the ANU, also proved that the promise of less pressure on emergency departments was not achieved.
The walk-in centre is the first of its kind in Australia and since opening in May 2010 has assessed 14,688 patients and treated 8463.
According to the Chief Minister and Minister for Health Katy Gallagher, the report found numerous positive findings including high levels of consumer satisfaction, high utilisation of the service, improved access to primary care services in the ACT and staff reported they were able to deliver high-quality care.
“The original aims of the walk-in centre were to fulfil an unmet health care need in the community, better meet projected demand for health services, and develop innovative strategies to recruit and retain a professional multidisciplinary workforce and to relieve pressure on the public hospital system,” she said.
“My own view, after reading the report, has been that the walk-in centre has met three of these aims very well with the only aim in question, being that of relieving pressure on the public hospital system, and in particular the emergency department at the Canberra Hospital.”
However, Leader of the Opposition Zed Seselja said the independent evaluation highlighted the walk-in centre’s poor location, double-up of assessment work and low usage.
“As the evaluation showed, it duplicates assessment work for the already strained emergency department,” he said.
“I’m also concerned to see the centre is operating at less than 30 per cent of its possible capacity. Only 23 patients are being treated daily, out of a possible 80.”
ACT Greens spokesperson Amanda Bresnan said the centre could achieve more if it wasn’t located at the Canberra Hospital and nurses had greater powers.
“The review has found that while the walk-in centre is an innovative and positive step, it would be more successful if some of the constraints on the nurses were removed,” she said. “The next step should be to increase the nurses’ scope of practice.”
There will be a six-week public consultation period on the report. Feedback can be provided via email to: DCECorporate@act.gov.au
More information at www.health.act.gov.au/communityconsultation