The short answer is most are doing their best but workforce shortages are making finding appropriate staff a challenge.
DOHAC has pledged that Medicare urgent care clinics will be open for extended hours, seven days a week, but how many of the 24 operational clinics are living up to this promise?
The short answer is most of them do, with our yardstick for extended hours being outside the normal hours of GP clinic operation. All MUCCs are open seven days a week, although some are open for shorter hours on weekends.
MUCCs are aimed at treating urgent but not life-threatening conditions and are designed to reduce demand on hospitals and GPs.
There are currently 24 UCCs up and running, and eight of these are open from 8am to 8pm – Perth and Rockingham UCCs (WA), Randwick, Westmead, Wollongong, Blacktown, and Penrith UCCs (NSW); and Logan UCC (QLD).
Some are open past 8pm and/or for longer than 12 hours:
- Prahran, Heidelberg and Frankston UCCs: 8am – midnight
- Narre Warren UCC: 8am-11pm on weekdays, and 8am to 10pm on weekends
- Werribee UCC: 8am – 10pm
- Ballarat UCC: 10am to 10pm
- Shepparton UCC: 9am to 9pm (most days)
- Geelong UCC: 9am to 9pm on weekdays and 11am-9pm on weekends
- Ipswich UCC: 8am – 10pm
It’s worth noting that with the exception of Ipswich UCC in Queensland, all of these UCCs are located in Victoria.
However, some UCCs have not yet met the mark.
Cessnock and Clarkson UCCs are open from 8am-6pm, which broadly aligns with standard GP hours (although being open on weekends they provide a service outside normal business hours).
Albury UCC is open from 8.30am-5pm Monday to Friday, and 10am-2pm on weekends.
Heather Paterson, practice manager of the Albury UCC told HSD that opening hours were “reliant on the recruitment of suitably qualified staff, and there are significant workforce shortages in rural and regional areas”.
“We have a plan to extend hours in the future and are working very hard to recruit,” she added.
Albury was not the only centre that attributed shorter opening hours to workforce shortages. While open from 9am-9pm on most days, Shepparton UCC closes its doors at 4.30pm on Tuesdays, due to locum doctor shortages.
Additionally, Palmerston UCC is open from 2.30pm-8.30pm on weekdays, from 12pm-6pm on Saturdays and 10am-6pm on Sundays and public holidays. Technically, later closing times are outside the scope of standard GP operation, but the UCC is open for less hours than GP services, which are open from 8am-6pm.
Launceston UCC is open from 2pm-8pm, whereas the medical centre is open from 8am-5pm.
Similarly, Hobart UCC is open from 4pm-10pm, while the operating hours of the established GP clinic are from 8am-10pm. That said, even though the UCC is open for fewer hours than the normal GP clinic, it’s worth considering that the GP clinic is appointment only, and its hours are longer than average.
Finally, while not a Commonwealth funded UCC, Wentwest PHN (Western Sydney) funds four urgent care services that are aimed at treating minor injuries. These services are open from 8am-8pm from Monday-Friday, with a spokesperson explaining that they are not open on weekends due to a lack of state funding.
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