Labor to establish four nurse walk-in centres to relieve pressure on emergency departments

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NSW Opposition Leader Luke Foley has announced that a Labor Government will set up four free, nurse-led Walk-in Centres to relieve the pressure on hospital emergency departments and provide a new health option for families.

In a new approach to health in NSW, Mr Foley – joined by Shadow Minister for Health Walt Secord – today committed $40 million to establish four Walk-in Centres staffed by nurses. It should employ 45 nurses.

The Centres will be based on those successfully introduced in the United Kingdom in 2000 and were introduced into the ACT in 2010.

Labor will establish two Walk-in Centres in Western Sydney and one each in the Illawarra-Shoalhaven district and on the Central Coast.

This builds on Luke Foley’s announcement to allow pharmacists to provide flu shots to increase immunisations and reduce sickness in the community. Previously, doctors and nurses were limited to provide vaccinations.

Under Labor’s Walk-in Centres, experienced nurses will provide free medical advice between 7.30am and 10pm for patients aged two and older with minor injuries and illnesses who would otherwise clog hospital emergency departments.

The Centres will operate seven days a week on a walk-in basis. They will be located within existing community health centres in areas where there is high population demand for health services.

Each year, there are 1.25 million hospital emergency presentations by people seeking treatment for an illness or injury in the lowest two triage categories (triage 4 and 5). Typical cases include sprained ankles, cuts and abrasions – and at some hospitals, they account for a third to almost half of all presentations.

The Walk-in Centres are designed to complement the work of emergency departments and local general practitioners – with referrals to other services as required. Those with serious, complex and ongoing conditions – or motor vehicle or workplace injuries – will not be treated at the Walk-in Centres and will be redirected to the most appropriate medical practitioner or emergency departments.

A Medicare card will be required for admission to the Walk-in Centre; however patients will not be charged.

“Nurse Walk-in Centres represent a new frontier in NSW health. This is a fresh approach,” Opposition Leader Mr Foley said today.

“It is not always easy to find health services late at night or on the weekend. Now more than ever, our communities need more flexible, convenient options.

“Under a Labor Government, people in NSW will be able to go to a Walk-in Centre to be treated for minor illnesses and injuries.

“This will relieve pressure on our State’s emergency departments and complement the work of general practitioners.

“The influx of Triage 4 and Triage 5 category patients is blowing out hospital waiting times under the Baird Government.

“The Abbott and Baird Governments have cut $18 billion from NSW hospitals. Without urgent action by a Foley Labor Government, the pressure on emergency departments will only intensify when the Abbott GP tax is introduced.”

Shadow Health Minister Walt Secord said: “Western Sydney, Illawarra-Shoalhaven and the Central Coast have some of the most overstretched hospitals in the State. We will introduce the Walk-in Centres here first.

“This is a very innovative approach to healthcare and a strategic investment. The Walk-in Centres will complement, not replace, other primary care services.

“Making it easier for more people in the community to receive a free early healthcare intervention will strengthen the entire system of primary care.

“Importantly the Walk-in Centres can also support other health services in the event of a public health incident, such as a pandemic. This is the case in the ACT.”

The first Walk-in Centre in Australia opened in May 2010 at Canberra Hospital. In 2011, an independent evaluation confirmed the model to be a safe and effective means to provide primary health care services. In June 2014, ACT Health relocated the Centre to Tuggeranong, considered an area of need. A second was opened in Belconnen in July 2014.

Over time, the number of patients to the ACT Walk-in Centres has steadily increased. Since July, the two sites have assisted more than 20,000 people with Monday mornings deemed to be the busiest periods.

Key Facts:

  • Labor’s four Walk-in Centres (WiCs) will to give people another free healthcare option for treatment of minor illnesses and injuries.
  • The WiCs will be open 7.30am to10pm daily, and will only accept patients on a walk-in basis. The WiCs will rely on highly skilled nurses with advanced qualifications such as nurse practitioners and advanced practice nurses.
  • Two WiCs will be opened on the Central Coast and in Western Sydney, and are designed to complement, not replace, existing services including GPs and hospital emergency departments.
  • Treatment at WiCs will be free and nurses will send treatment summaries to the patient’s GP.
  • The WiC will be publicly funded and its services will be free of charge. It will provide episodic care, and treat patients with the following ailments:
    • Colds, sore throats and flu;
    • Ear wax
    • Cuts and abrasions;
    • Bites and Stings;
    • Skin conditions;
    • Casts;
    • Minor illness such as gastroenteritis; and
    • Minor injuries.
  • Nurses will also be able to provide a “sick/carer certificate” (which differs to medical certificates).
  • To avoid overseas visitors using the free service, the Walk-in Centres will ask for a Medicare card as evidence of eligibility.

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