I was pleased to see today’s media reports that four Urgent Care Clinics (UCC) have been announced for Tasmania, with two to be located in Hobart.
I have been highlighting for years now the dire shortage, particularly in the northern suburbs, of GPs who bulk-bill, so hopefully these clinics will go a long way to filling that void, although the media statement is scant on detail.
For example, where are the Hobart clinics to be located? It is essential, in my view that one of clinics must be established north of Creek Road. So many of my constituents in the northern suburbs have mobility issues and need their doctor to be close at hand, in the community where they live. Accessibility is just as important as availability.
And there must be questions over staffing of these clinics. Where are the doctors and nurses going to come from? In a radio interview recently, respected Claremont GP Graeme Alexander said there is little understanding among politicians of the mood pervading GPs as they struggle to cope. Most have had enough. They feel they are not supported by governments resulting with many leaving general practice for good. Will these UCCs help bring doctors back to general practice, or will they poach doctors from existing practices?
The AMA is certainly concerned. The Tasmanian president, Dr John Saul, has said today that the UCCs risk undermining existing practices, and I also note UTAS demographer Professor Lisa Denny has questioned where the medical staff will come from.
An overriding concern for me is the vagueness of who exactly these clinics will treat. All-comers, or will there be some form of triage to only see urgent cases? If so, what determines “urgent”? Will anyone be turned away? After all, “urgent” is in the title, which indicates there will be some form of cut-off, some sort of threshold.
If so, I’d hate to be the one who has to say “Go away, you’re not urgent enough”.