ST John Ambulance has acquired four primary health clinics in a bid to ease loads on hospital emergency departments.
On Thursday, St John announced the acquisition of Apollo Health, a group of four medical centres located in Joondalup, Cockburn, Cannington and Armadale.
As well as taking over the running of the clinics, St John will turn two of the facilities – in Joondalup and Cockburn – into ‘urgent care centres’ from July, while the Armadale clinic will be looked at further down the track.
Ambulance officers will give patients dealing with non-life threatening conditions, such as sports injuries or cuts that need stitches, the option of being transported to one of the urgent care centres instead of a hospital.
St John Ambulance chief executive Tony Ahern said the centres would use existing Apollo staff – about 100 in total, with nearly 50 doctors – and would continue to be run by the present management.
“This represents a great opportunity for St John,” Mr Ahern said.
“The concept of urgent care centres is not a new concept, they are seen as best practice in many parts of the world.
“(Paramedics) will make the assessment but the decision to take a patient there would only be with the patient’s consent.”
Mr Ahern said the centres would operate from 8am until 10pm, seven days a week and the visits would be bulk-billed.
“Patients will always be seen by a doctor; the paramedic involvement will be a co-ordinating role between ambulance and transport services and some patient care, but only under the direction of the medical staff,” Mr Ahern said. “If you look at the range of services that will be provided in an urgent care centre, most of those services in one form or another, are provided in general practice now.
“The difference is that this is a place where all of the services will be available in one place, including X-ray.
“We know from our own experience that people with minor fractures or sporting injuries on the weekend often present at ED because there is nowhere else to get all of that done.
“The urgent care centres will do that.”
Mr Ahern could not disclose how much the acquisition cost, citing commercial confidentiality, but said there was no handout from the State Government.
“St John Ambulance has funded it itself, out of its own reserves,” he said.