New program to ease emergency department load

Stock image.
Stock image.

THE State Government will launch a pilot program next month in a bid to reduce the increasing number of people presenting with non-life threatening conditions at Perth’s emergency departments.

Premier Mark McGowan and Health Minister Roger Cook today announced the 18-month pilot that will allow patients to bypass the emergency department and book an urgent care clinic appointments with a local GP.

The service will be accessible via an online directory and specialised phone number and will go live on September 10.

So far 133 GP practices across the State will participate in the pilot, which will be supported through an advertising campaign aimed to raise awareness of the types of conditions that the GP Urgent Care Clinic Network can help with.

Mr Cook said nearly 20 per cent of attendances to WA emergency departments in 2017-18 could have been potentially avoided with treatment in primary care.

“We said we would enter a formal arrangement with a range of general practices licensed to operate as urgent care clinics and these would be promoted through a dedicated awareness raising campaign,” he said.

“This pilot is good news for patients who will have an easily accessible alternative to the ED, and good news for the health system, ensuring the care of patients is shared appropriately.”

Mr McGowan said the pilot will broaden in the range of services available for patients.

“Rather than making people sit in a busy emergency department, these urgent care clinics round out the model of care provided to Western Australians giving them more options and access to medical services,” he said.

All GP Urgent Care Clinics in the pilot will have access to pathology and radiology services. They will also include fully equipped treatment rooms to apply sutures, plastering and conduct minor procedures.

The pilot was developed in conjunction with WA Primary Health Alliance and supported by the Royal Australian College of General Practitioners WA Faculty and the Australian Medical Association (WA).

Examples of urgent but non-life-threatening medical conditions include cuts, mild burns, bites, sports injuries, back pain and infections.