Page 722 - Week 03 - Tuesday, 20 March 2018

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MS FITZHARRIS: As members know, walk-in centres are popular in our community and provide free access to healthcare services, particularly after hours and on weekends. We have seen patient presentations growing at about eight per cent over the past year.

Commonly, people visit walk-in centres for treatment for minor illness and injury, including wound dressings, upper respiratory tract infection—a cold—minor musculoskeletal injuries, wounds, lacerations and skin abrasions, ear conditions, and sore throats.

ACT Health have been trialling other health services that the walk-in centres could offer on a more ongoing basis, including the removal of plaster casts for patients where medical review is not required—this commenced in September last year—and trialling the provision of additional sexual health outreach clinics for people at high risk of sexually transmissible infections and blood-borne viruses in both the Tuggeranong and Belconnen walk-in centres, which commenced in February this year.

Planning is underway to commence a 12-month trial of an experienced physiotherapist at walk-in centres. This is expected to commence later in 2018. We are also considering ways to enhance the existing model of care by introducing screening possibilities.

MS CHEYNE: Minister, what are the key benefits of walk-in centres?

MS FITZHARRIS: I thank Ms Cheyne for the supplementary. As members know, walk-in centres can help to reduce the costly demand on our acute hospital system, in particular through ensuring accessible primary health-care services. Walk-in centres are staffed by advanced practice nurses and nurse practitioners. They provide an alternative for fast access to health advice and one-off treatment for minor illnesses and injuries.

ACT Health walk-in centres complement existing medical services; they do not duplicate them, nor do they compete with them. They provide care for people in instances where they do not need the particular skills of doctors or more expensive medical facilities.

Walk-in centres have a strong social licence to operate and deliver value to the public because they ensure that health services are more accessible; they have short wait times; they are free; and they offer opportunistic health promotion at each consultation. They are also a credible alternative to ED attendance for minor injury and illnesses.

Currently, some walk-in centre clients report difficulty accessing GPs, in particular bulk-billing GPs, and also accessing them outside of business hours. Access for clients is enhanced as the walk-in centres are open every day of the year from 7.30 am to 10 pm.

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