AMAQ dumbfounded by new nurse-led clinic

4 minute read

The $46 million investment is a ‘misguided use of taxpayers' money’ and reeks of ‘broken promises’, adds the RACGP.

The AMA Queensland has been left “perplexed” by the state government’s decision to fund a nurse-led clinic in Brisbane’s CBD instead in the more needy regions. 

Yesterday, the Queensland government announced the location of its first nurse-led walk-in clinic, scheduled to open in September. 

Nurse-led clinics have been the subject of controversy, after emails released under the Freedom of Information laws in June showed that the cost-per-service at ACT clinics was around $194, far higher than initial government claims. 

After promising to cater for areas of “high need”, Queensland’s government has picked a confounding location for its first clinic: central Brisbane. 

Speaking on the new clinic, AMA Queensland president Dr Nick Yim said “band-aid” fixes like nurse-led clinics, satellite hospitals and pharmacy prescribing only increased pressure on emergency departments. 

“AMA Queensland welcomes any investment in primary care but a nurse-only clinic in the Brisbane CBD does not make sense when so much of regional Queensland is struggling with access to health services,” Dr Yim said. 

“The Brisbane CBD is already well serviced by GP clinics and hospitals.  

“This funding would go so much further if it was used to employ nurses and allied health workers in GP clinics across the state, and in recruiting, training and retaining our local workforce.” 

Dr Yim called on all levels of government to invest in models of primary care “that we know work”, like general practice. 

“Instead of throwing money at clinics without doctors, satellite ‘hospitals’ without hospital beds and urgent care clinics that cannot find enough staff to open outside regular business hours, the state and federal governments should be investing in general practice. 

“Clinics without doctors have been consistently shown to be more expensive, provide lower-quality care and fragment patient care compared to doctors’ practices. 

“In the ACT, each visit to a nurse-led clinic costs taxpayers almost $200 compared to $40 for a GP visit, and that is without knowing how many patients were redirected to EDs.” 

Dr Yim told The Medical Republic that he was “perplexed” by the Queensland government’s decision. 

“We acknowledge that stakeholders do realise that general practice is a very, very important part of the healthcare sector, which is why it’s quite perplexing that the state government would invest $46 million into nurse-led clinics and in particular, for this clinic to be in central Brisbane,” he said. 

“[The investment] could be used much more wisely supplementing the existing infrastructures that we have in place, as opposed to creating a standalone model that potentially will fragment the care of our patients. 

“Now we have the nurse-led clinics, we have urgent clinic clinics, we have satellite hospitals, public hospitals and also general practice.  

“It can be very, very confusing and challenging for patients and health professionals alike.” 

Beyond the cost, the initiative would no doubt spread the workforce thinner too. 

“We have a workforce crisis and the staff for these nurse-led clinics will inevitably be poached from existing services, making it harder for them to provide continuity of care to patients,” said Dr Yim. 

Unsurprisingly, the move has also attracted the ire of the college. 

RACGP Queensland chair Dr Cathryn Hester said the $46 million of taxpayer money could have been much better spent on rural general practice. 

“Instead, Brisbane City is getting a walk-in clinic which promises to be costly and offer little value for Queensland patients,” she said. 

“A recent media investigation revealed a cost blow-out at similar walk-in nurse clinics in the ACT.  

“They fragment care for patients, duplicate services and lead to wastage of public funds.” 

Dr Hester added that the promise of a focus on women’s healthcare had also been shunned and was added to a long list of other conditions the clinics will treat including the common cold, skin conditions and gastro. 

“Queenslanders should be concerned about the Miles Government’s misguided use of taxpayers’ money and broken promise to improve access to women’s healthcare for people in regional communities,” she said.  

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