Pilot to ease ED pressure

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Premier Mark McGowan and Health Minister Roger Cook launched the Urgent Care Clinic network at the Rockingham Medical Centre on Tuesday.
Camera IconPremier Mark McGowan and Health Minister Roger Cook launched the Urgent Care Clinic network at the Rockingham Medical Centre on Tuesday. Credit: Pierra Willix

The State Government has delivered a major election commitment by rolling out a pilot program to help divert patients away from emergency departments and into GP clinics.

The GP Urgent Care Clinic Network is an 18-month pilot program that will involve 133 WA practices — seven of those regional — providing urgent medical care to people who may otherwise be seen in hospitals.

Launching the program in Rockingham last week, Premier Mark McGowan said the network was about alleviating pressure from EDs and using GP practices more effectively and efficiently.

“These practices often offer many of the services available in a hospital and are there and waiting for people,” he said.

Illnesses and injuries that can be treated at urgent care clinics include gastrointestinal illnesses, musculoskeletal and orthopaedic injuries, stings, rashes and wound infections, and abrasions and minor lacerations.

Nearly one-fifth of attendances to WA Emergency Departments in 2017-18 could have been potentially avoided with treatment in primary care. Health Minister Roger Cook rejected claims the program was simply a bandaid solution to address pressure on hospital emergency departments.

“This was a promise we took to the election in 2017,” he said.

“This care can offer better service to those patients who currently sit in our EDs often waiting many hours for care, who don’t necessarily have to be there,” he said.

Under the pilot, the GP Urgent Care Network will offer appointments from 8am to 8pm, seven days a week. Patients will have access to pathology and radiology services, including fully equipped treatment rooms which will apply sutures, plastering and conduct minor procedures.

“If we can utilise that capacity we know that we can get better care to patients,” Mr Cook said. “This is an exciting policy and is one that has never been done before in WA.”

The pilot program will be aided with a $1 million campaign that will raise awareness of the types of conditions that the GP Urgent Care Clinic Network can treat.

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