Band-aid fixes not good enough

14 Apr 2022

band aid fixes


Federal Labor’s proposal for GP-led urgent care clinics is a Band-aid solution that will not address the core challenges at the heart of the state and federal health systems.

“While we welcome any investment into primary care, this proposal is a drop in the ocean that the Australian system health needs and was formulated without consultation with doctors about where the money could be best spent,” AMA Queensland President Professor Chris Perry said.

“It is a rehash of a failed policy from the Rudd era, and is symptomatic of the short-term vision of both sides of politics and all levels of government when it comes to health.

“The simple issue is that Medicare rebates have not kept up with the cost of providing quality health care, and our hospitals are too small for our growing and ageing population.

“GPs cannot afford to run a practice, let alone an after-hours service, on Medicare rebates that are about one-third what they were 30 years ago.

“Our emergency departments are not full of people who can’t get in to see their GP to have a wound treated or an illness diagnosed. They are full of people with acute abdominal sepsis, heart attacks and broken hips who can’t move from the ED into a ward bed because our hospitals are already full.

“We need 1500 more fully-resourced hospital beds in Queensland, and we need a federal government that will commit to a 50-50 split of state and commonwealth hospital funding, not the current 55-45.

“That extra 5 per cent - $1.5 billion a year – would pay for those 1500 hospital beds. This is not an excuse for the state government to cut its spending by 5 per cent – this is an opportunity to grow the funding in real terms.”

AMA Queensland Committee of General Practice Chair Dr Maria Boulton said more detail was needed on how the urgent care clinics would operate, and where the nurses and reception staff would come from.

“There are already staff shortages, and $135 million for 50 clinics will not go far, especially with after-hours penalty rates for staff. It’s hard to imagine that this proposal is even viable,” Dr Boulton said.

“Existing GP practices that open seven days won’t be able to compete with bulk-billing clinics and will end up closing on weekends. This will harm patients who will not be able to be seen in their usual GP practice, particularly those with chronic disease or mental health issues.

“This is another example of fragmentation of care, similar to the Queensland government’s proposal to allow pharmacists to diagnose and treat a range of serious conditions without consulting a doctor.

“These short-sighted proposals are not the way to solve workplace shortages and ease pressures on our hospitals and are a waste of money. Real reform is needed by all levels of Government to solve the issues of ambulance ramping, elective surgery wait lists and the erosion of primary care as funding has not kept up with the cost of living.”

Published: 14 Apr 2022