Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2010 Week 14 Hansard (Thursday, 9 December 2010) . . Page.. 6108 ..
certainly continue to engage with the industry in relation to the reforms that we have proposed.
Canberra Hospital—emergency department
MR COE: My question is to the Minister for Health. Minister, in May you opened the first nurse-led clinic in the grounds of the Canberra Hospital. A recent paper presented by Professor Drew Richardson of the ANU Medical School has shown that since the clinic’s opening the number of presentations at the emergency department has increased. Minister, is your solution to the emergency department problems actually making the situation worse?
MS GALLAGHER: I welcome the question and the opportunity to talk about the success of the walk-in centre. From the six and a half thousand people who have used the walk-in centre and the positive feedback that I have got from that, I would say that the walk-in centre is a success in its own right. It will be independently reviewed after 12 months of operation and that work will be commissioned, I think, through the University of Canberra and overseen by the steering committee that is monitoring the implementation of the walk-in centre.
I do note Professor Richardson’s comments. He is a very valued staff member at Canberra Hospital who works in the emergency department and does a lot of research through the ACT Road Safety Trust. I have heard concerns that the walk-in centre being located at the hospital—and I think that is Professor Richardson’s concern; less about the effectiveness of the walk-in centre—is drawing people to the emergency department.
I think we need a longer period of time to look at that. For example, I think, in the month before the walk-in centre opened, the emergency department saw presentations year on year that were much higher than the previous year and so I do not necessarily think that you can draw the comparison that because it has been a busy three months it is all because of the walk-in centre. December, five months before the walk-in centre opened, was the busiest December on record. It was the busiest March on record. So I am not sure that you can necessarily say that one has caused the other.
I do know from staff in the walk-in centre that they are seeing about two-thirds of the presentations that come to them; about 23 per cent are being referred back to general practice and a small number, about seven per cent, are being referred directly to the emergency department.
It was always the intention, I think, to have a walk-in centre as a community-based solution for people who needed out-of-hours access to free healthcare—this is the way they work in the UK—and it certainly was the government’s intention that this be a model that be out in the community.
One of the reasons it is located at the Canberra Hospital is because the doctors raised concerns about it being in the community. They wanted in the first instance—their conditional and reluctant support for the walk-in centre was if it was located at the Canberra Hospital and came under the clinical governance of the Canberra Hospital’s structures. That was the reason it was located there, along with some of the