MUCC rollout ‘passes pub test’

3 minute read

But ACEM says urgent care clinics will have ‘no significant impact’ on emergency department pressures.

Federal Health Minister Mark Butler has doubled down on his promise to have 34 more Medicare urgent care clinics up and running by the end of the year, despite the Australasian College of Emergency Medicine confirming a minimal impact on emergency department pressures.

Speaking on the ABC’s RN Drive program earlier this week, Mr Butler said he was “very confident” the remaining 36 of 58 promised MUCCs would be open by the end of the month, despite just 22 being opened in the 17 months since his government’s election.

“I’ve said they’ll be open before the end of this calendar year, and I’m very confident about that,” said Mr Butler.

“We’ve been opening a couple a week at the moment. We’ve got a range of other jurisdictions where openings will be happening over the course of the next couple of months.

“I’ve been monitoring this very closely, and I’m very confident that all of the clinics will be open [and] operating before the end of calendar [year] 2023, which is what I’ve said right through the course of the last 12 or 15 months.”

When challenged about the location of the MUCCs – the majority of the active clinics currently are in Labor-held electorates – Mr Butler said in the end it would be more balanced once the remaining clinics opened.

“But we made the decisions on locations based on hospital emergency department waiting time data, particularly for the semi-urgent and non-urgent categories of presentations,” he said.

“It’s a pretty fair and transparent process that I think doesn’t just pass the pub test but will pass any other test as well.”

Another MUCC progressed yesterday with a provider announced for the Brisbane South clinic. Cornwall Street Medical Centre will be established as the Brisbane South MUCC and will start seeing patients on 23 October, according to the DoHAC media release.

The clinic will be the third to open in Queensland. For a full list of operating MUCCs, see here.

As with every announcement of a new clinic, Mr Butler was quoted as saying that “the clinic will ease pressure on the Mater Hospital Brisbane and Princess Alexandra Hospital, allowing them to concentrate on higher priority emergencies”.

It’s a spiel he may have to adjust following the release of a position statement on MUCCs from the ACEM this week.

“Whilst UCCs provide additional options, and positive patient experience for low-acuity patients, current evidence shows little impact on emergency department pressures,” the statement says.

While acknowledging the clinics were popular with patients and “cautiously” supporting the introduction of UCCs “where the intention is to improve timely access for urgent low-acuity primary care needs”, the ACEM was sceptical about the impact on ED pressures.

“ED pressures, overcrowding and ambulance ramping are phenomena that occur when patients are waiting for admission to a hospital in-patient ward and remain in the ED for an extended period of time due to lack of available in-patient beds,” the college said in a statement.

“This results in hospital access block.

“These patients represent a different group of patients to those that can be managed in UCCs.

“UCCs may lead to reductions in low acuity presentations to EDs but will not have significant impact on these main drivers of ED pressure.

“ACEM calls for greater action to manage hospital access block that will address ED pressures in a constructive and sustainable way.”

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