Bulk-billed urgent care clinic announced for Armadale

Bulk-billed urgent care clinic announced for Armadale

Federal Assistant Minister for Health Ged Kearney, Federal Member for Burt Matt Keogh, State Member for Armadale Tony Buti and State Member for Darling Range Hugh Jones.

The Armadale hospital was mobbed by ministers on Monday; a staged spectacle engineered to reveal one of the ‘most significant’ health boons for our community in a very long time.

Within a year, Armadale will have its very own, fully bulk-billed Medicare Urgent Care Clinic (UCC).

Whether it’s a cut, sprained ankle, viral infection or rash, the clinic will be equipped to treat a range of conditions and injuries that need urgent attention but aren’t life threatening, alleviating pressure on the hospital’s emergency department (ED).

The clinic will be open extended hours, seven days a week, filling a gap in services – nearly half of ED presentations happen outside of standard business hours.

“We know that over 40 percent of presentations to the ED here are for non-urgent matters. And that is exactly what we want to help the local hospital with,” Federal Assistant Minister for Health Ged Kearney said.

The clinic is one of an additional 29 to be established around the country as part of a $227 million expansion of the Medicare UCC program announced in the 2024–25 federal budget.

It will be the eighth such facility opened in WA since the initiative was rolled out mid-last year.

Ms Kearney said Armadale was chosen off the back of ‘strong advocacy’ from our local state and federal members.

“Tony, Hugh and I have been pushing for some time … to have an urgent care here in Armadale,” Federal Member for Burt Matt Keogh said.

“This is a great day for our community.”

State Member for Armadale Tony Buti said the absence of one of these clinics in Armadale was a ‘glaring omission’.

“This hospital here is under incredible pressure – it’s the main public hospital for about 15-20 kilometres. People from Williams even come up to this hospital.

“This is one of the most significant health announcements for our people in such a long time.”

A new state-of-the-art medical centre purpose-built to house a St John WA Urgent Care Clinic and Perth Radiological Clinic has just been constructed opposite the Armadale Health Service on the Albany Highway.

But in February, The Examiner broke the news that St John were ‘reviewing feasibility’ of its planned urgent care clinic at the site, in line with “rising business costs and a national shortage of general practitioners”.

An artist’s impression of the new medical centre on the site’s development application featured St John WA heavily.

While the Perth Radiological Clinic team have settled into their shiny new digs across the road, the building’s half reserved for St John WA is still empty.

A spokesperson for St John told the Examiner yesterday there was no update on whether they still intended to run an urgent care clinic at the new medical centre. But Managing Director of Auswide International Investments Talha Patel whose company has developed the new medical centre opposite the hospital said St John WA would still be a part of the centre’s future.

Community sentiment has generally been behind the new St John Urgent Care facility, but many locals have also disclosed that they would continue to use the hospital to avoid the out-of-pocket expenses.

So, Monday’s announcement of a fully bulk-billed clinic has taken care of those concerns.

“This emergency department can get really clogged. People can see the benefit of the urgent care clinics – even those ones where people have had to pay,” Mr Keogh said.

“They can see the benefit, but people can’t afford to pay for those sorts of services out of pocket.

“And so there has been a clamouring from people who have said ‘can we have a Medicare Urgent Care Clinic here in our community?’.

“We don’t want to see the cost of seeing a doctor putting people off from getting their urgent care needs seen to.

“We’re really proud to be delivering this over the course of the next year.”

Federal Member for Burt Matt Keogh said a lot of work had gone into this week’s announcement.

St John said they would consider the opportunity to be a provider for the new Medicare UCC ‘in due course’.

But, in February, they said their primary concern in delivering a new urgent care clinic in Armadale was sourcing doctors to staff it, pointing to the federal government’s refusal to officially classify Armadale as an area with doctor shortages.

The spokesperson for St John WA said the classification of Armadale as a Distribution Priority Area “would have allowed for recruitment of overseas-trained GPs”, but that ‘ongoing’ attempts to ‘secure a revision’ of the decision had proved futile.

The Examiner asked the Assistant Minister for Health if the federal government would review Armadale’s status.

“I can’t answer that question specifically but I’m sure if they’ve gone to the government to have that reviewed it will be under consideration,” Ms Kearney said.

“We are focussing very heavily on growing our general practice workforce.

“We have invested a lot of money in trying to increase the number of GPs in training facilities. A couple of our rural and regional training facilities, for example, are over-prescribed this year.

“We’re working very hard on making it easier for overseas doctors to come into the system – at the moment it’s very difficult, there’s lots of barriers.

“And we’ve invested in this budget in a lot of training opportunities, scholarship opportunities for doctors to take up general practice as a preferred option.”

She said the government’s recent investments like the tripling of the bulk billing incentive had been making a dent in the deficit of doctors.

“We’re actually seeing an uptick in the number of doctors wanting to do general practice. So, we’re really positive about the future,” she said.

Mr Keogh added that urgent care facilities have proven to be an attractive option because they can provide more flexible work hours for GPs; there’s not the same need for continuity of care, making it possible for doctors to work part-time or out-of-hours if that suits their family’s needs more.

The Armadale Urgent Care Clinic will be commissioned by the WA Primary Health Alliance with Expression of Interest to be collected from potential providers over the coming months.