THE peak representative bodies for general practice and primary care in Canberra are calling on ACT Labor to consult before making unfair commitments about walk-in centre locations.
The Australian Medical Association ACT, the ACT branch of the Royal Australian College of General Practitioners and the Capital Health Network are “considerably concerned” after ACT Labor, as part of an election promise, committed to five walk-in centres, saying the first will be co-located with the exiting National Health Co-operative in Coombs.
It was announced without any open, public competitive tender process to determine the location, the representatives say.
Concerned, the representatives wrote to ACT Labor, saying: “Given these matters, we are concerned that ACT Labor appears to have selectively chosen, and announced, the National Health Co-operative as the co–located general practice for the new walk-in centre in Molonglo.
“In fact, from the strength of the joint announcements today, it may be that contracts have been signed. We sincerely trust that this is not the case but ask that you confirm no contracts have been entered into or commercial commitments made with the National Health Co-operative.
“Given these concerns, we acknowledge that if, re-elected, ACT Labor would have a mandate to proceed with the roll-out of the new walk-in centres. Given the potential and significant commercial benefit accruing to a general practice co-located with a new walk-in centre (including the National Health Co-operative), we believe a public tender process is warranted to decide the successful general practice.
“Consequently, we seek your commitment that open, public, and competitive tender processes will be undertaken to decide which general practices will be successful in gaining a co-located new walk-in centre.”
ACT Labor never replied.
At a time when practitioners and the government should be working towards better integration of care, the peak body representatives say the allocation of the first of the new walk-in centres, without consultation with Canberra‘s general practitioners or their organisations brings with it the risk of further splintering care.
“We know it is important that, if co–location is to proceed, that the new model of care be developed carefully and cautiously, to avoid unexpected consequences. We are willing to work with a re–elected ACT Labor government to develop accessible and sustainable models for any future walk-in centres,” the groups say.
“In addition, given the potentially significant commercial benefits flowing to any co–located general practice, it is vital that the new walk-in centres are allocated using a process that is open, public and competitive, ensuring we have a transparent process for expenditure of public money.
“Otherwise, ‘picking winners’ risks not only the sustainability of general practices in the surrounding areas, but our community cannot be satisfied that multi–million dollar expenditure of public monies is being undertaken fairly or effectively.
“Finally, we know it’s a challenge to bring the various parts of the healthcare system closer together and get them working in harmony – particularly in a time of COVID–19. But that’s where the big gains lie. ACT Health know this, as do Canberra Health Services, and all of us. GPs know it and, most importantly, so do our patients.
“This is why we call upon Andrew Barr and Rachel Stephen Smith to make public election commitments to, firstly, an open, public and competitive tender process to allocate the proposed co–located walk-in centres and, secondly, to consult on the new model of care being implemented as part of the proposed walk-in centres.”