Announcements coming thick and fast, details not so much

3 minute read

Flags are being planted across the country for new MUCCs and mental health clinics. Ministers are racking up the air miles.

The DoHAC media machine has hit the ground running since last week’s federal budget with six new clinics already announced.

With 29 Medicare urgent care clinics promised this year on top of the 58 delivered in 2023, and now the added bonus of 61 Medicare mental health clinics in the mix, the department’s announcements have come thick and fast.

Health Minister Mark Butler was on the Gold Coast this morning touting a new MUCC for the tourist strip, this one situated in Southport, joining the Oxenford clinic opened last year. The Southport Medicare UCC will be commissioned by the Gold Coast PHN.

On Monday, Mr Butler announced MUCCs for both Armadale in Perth’s southeastern suburbs, and a fifth for Tasmania in the Hobart suburb of Bridgewater.

Yesterday, it was a new MUCC for Ryde in Sydney’s north.

None of the announcements included provider names or dates for opening, just a series of flag-planting exercises with the Minister and his entourage on-site, presumably at taxpayer expense.

Mr Butler was asked this morning on ABC radio what evidence there was that urgent care clinics actually did ease the pressure on hospital EDs.

“There’s no single silver bullet that’s going to relieve that pressure, particularly with population growth,” Mr Butler replied.

“But we know these Medicare Urgent Care Clinics are relieving some pressure on the hospitals that they’re situated near. Well over half of the people who are presenting to these clinics say that if they weren’t available, that they’d be going to the hospital.”

When pressed again about the actual evidence, Mr Butler said the cases being seen by MUCCs were not the type to make the front pages of newspapers.

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“They are the sort of lower acuity cases that are just clogging up emergency department waiting rooms, diverting some resources that we want really to focus on those truly life-threatening emergencies, which is what hospitals are built for,” said the Minister.

“I’m not going to pretend that there’s any one easy fix to this. There are other things we need to do. We’ve got substantial funding in last week’s Budget to help the state government here do more outreach into aged care facilities so the ambulance doesn’t have to go there and bring the older patient to any emergency department.”

Meanwhile, Assistant Minister for Health Emma McBride has apparently been given announcing duties for the mental health clinics, with three already under her belt.

On Monday it was Ipswich, in Queensland’s southeast corner, with Ms McBride saying it was the third such clinic in the state “with services already operating in Kingaroy and Townsville”.

The Ipswich is a rebranded existing clinic which has moved into new permanent premises in Nicholas Street.

Yesterday Ms McBride was in Rockhampton announcing a new MHCC to be opened “by the end of the year”, with Central Queensland Wide Bay Sunshine Coast PHN to commission the provider. 

Buckle up. It’s going to be a bumpy ride.

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