On the 12th December 2011 I announced ACT Labor’s first election policy as we head towards the ACT Legislative Assembly Election in October 2012. This announcement focused on health and committed a re-elected Labor Government to expand the very successful nurse-led Walk in Centres (WiC) into Belconnen and Tuggeranong.
The ACT was the first place in Australia to open a public WiC back in May 2010. It’s currently located at the Canberra Hospital and over the past 17 months over 15,000 people have visited the Centre (nearly 1,000 per month) clearly filling a gap in the delivery of free, extended hours primary health care in Canberra.
ACT Labor recognises that for some families, access to afterhours health care can be difficult, and unfortunately some struggle to pay for these services particularly when the ACT’s bulk billing rates are sitting just below 50% of all GP consultations.
The Walk in Centres model is all about providing timely access to healthcare for minor illnesses and injury. The centre at the hospital is open 7 days per week from 7am till 11pm and is free.
Whilst the WiC cannot treat all conditions many minor illnesses or injuries can be treated by qualified nurse practitioners and advance practice nurses. Ordering x-rays, providing medication for common conditions and treatment for things like cuts, abrasions, coughs and colds for those over the age of 2 years old is care that nurses are well placed to provide.
Treatment at a WiC is not meant to replace GP care but rather to complement other health care services and anyone who can’t be treated at the WiC will, if necessary, be referred to an appropriate health service.
The feedback through the WiC evaluation indicated that 80% of people have been very satisfied with the treatment they have received. The evaluation also found that the WiC provides a safe service for consumers.
ACT Labor want to expand to the town centres of Belconnen and Tuggeranong. We are already building community health centres in Belconnen Town Centre and Gungahlin and refurbishing the Tuggeranong Community Health Centre. The new WiC could operate from these centres or a different model could be developed in partnership with local GP’s that may deliver the same outcome.
In order to ensure this type of care remains successful we need to work with local GP’s, nurses, and the ACT Medicare Local to see how we can deliver this model in the best way for those who will use these services.
The key here is to deliver local health care that suits those who need to access it – close to home and access to a free service – easing out of pocket expenses, whilst ensuring that the highest standards of healthcare is provided for patients who use the service.
Its a big job rebuilding our health system and making sure new services are developed to meet increasing demand but I’m certain that an increased role for nurses providing access to extended hours primary health care is a part of the solution.
Happy to get your feedback. Have you used the WiC? Let me know what you think.
For more information on today’s policy announcement and policy costing please see www.actlabor.org.au