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Wednesday, June 23, 2021

ACT Labor promise five more walk-in centres in suburban Canberra

As promised late last week, ACT Labor has released further healthcare election commitments, including five additional nurse-run walk-in centres across Canberra.

The healthcare pledges include walk-in centres in South Tuggeranong, West Belconnen, the Inner South, Molonglo and North Gungahlin, using the 400 additional healthcare staff promised in an election promise last week.

ACT Labor health spokesperson Rachel Stephen-Smith said the walk-in centres would look to address GP and bulkbilling shortages in the Territory.

“We know that the ACT has the lowest portion of GPs per head of population and the lowest bulk billing rates per head of population,” she said.

“We know that we can do more and COVID-19 has seen how quickly we can innovate in the delivery of services outside a hospital campus. 

“These five new centres will expand on our existing network of walk-in centres and community health centres to deliver a hybrid model of walk-in and appointment centres.”

The election promise details a “significant investment” over five years and a plan to have the centres rolled out progressively in 2021-22.

However, the commitment has been criticised for its lack of transparency without proper costing being attached to the promise.

Ms Stephen-Smith defended the costing to the media on Monday, stating it would be made apparent following a feasibility study.

“We don’t know exactly what the development cost will be because we still have to work through whether there are buildings that could be refurbished as we did, for example, the Dickson walk-in centre and Weston walk-in centre, or whether a new build will be required in a particular location,” she said.

“This policy is not un-costed and unfunded; we will absolutely be able to tell you what the feasibility costs are and the staffing costs are already incorporated into our 400 additional healthcare workers which we have already provided a cost of $240 million over four years.”

The Canberra Liberals were also critical of the new announcement.

“We already have free and bulk-billed primary health care in many of these locations. Canberrans want to see a reduction in elective surgery, emergency department and specialist wait times,” a Liberals spokesperson said.

“These are the real health crises that Labor continues to ignore and which the Canberra Liberals will be tackling head on.”

ACT Labor has promised more election announcements in the healthcare sector, especially surrounding specialist services, in coming days.

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