16 June 2023

BREAKING: Bulli Hospital's Urgent Care Centre resumes Saturday opening hours

| Jen White
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Heathcote MP Maryanne Stuart and Health Minister Ryan Park with baby Izzy at Bulli Hospital.

Heathcote MP Maryanne Stuart and NSW Health Minister Ryan Park with 14-month-old Izzy, who was being treated in the Urgent Care Centre. Photos: Jen White.

Northern Illawarra residents have welcomed extended operating hours at Bulli Hospital’s Urgent Care Centre (UCC) from this weekend (June 17/18).

The centre will reopen to patients on Saturdays from 8 am to 4:30 pm, still one day short of its seven-day-a-week operation when the new hospital opened in August 2020.

NSW Health Minister and Keira MP Ryan Park said the extended hours was an important first step towards re-establishing seven-day-a-week coverage, which was one of his election pledges.

“This is designed to do a couple of things. One, provide services closer to home for those in the northern suburbs and two, to take some much-needed pressure off our emergency departments,” he said during a visit to the centre with Heathcote MP Maryanne Stuart.

“We know that 40 to 50 presentations regularly occur at this urgent care clinic. That’s people who don’t have to go to Wollongong Hospital’s emergency department because what we do know is unfortunately we are having some issues with GPs and access to bulk billing.

“Wollongong’s emergency department is doing too much heavy lifting at the moment. The pressure on it is too great, it’s not sustainable.

“We want to get back to a situation where the emergency department is for emergencies and that urgent care stuff can be done in places like Bulli.”

Illawarra Shoalhaven Local Health District (ISLHD) was forced to temporarily close the centre in December 2021 to deploy staff to other emergency services in the district which were under immense pressure due to COVID-19 presentations and staff shortages.

Four people standing outside Bulli Hospital.

ISLHD Board chair Chris Bertinshaw, Heathcote MP Maryanne Stuart, Health Minister Ryan Park and Bulli Hospital Director of Nursing Melissa Rees.

It reopened for five days a week in May 2022 under a nurse-led model of care and is now staffed by a combination of nursing and medical teams, supported by GP visiting medical officers and highly trained nurse practitioners.

“The nurse practitioner model of care provided at Bulli UCC has been a real success story as they have advanced skills and experience in the management of minor injury and illness, which is what the UCC is designed to treat,” Mr Park said.

“We know that nurse practitioners do incredible work, often similar work to what GPs can do and they have a great level of trust within the community. I’ve never had a person visit this centre and talk about a bad level of care from staff. It’s exactly the opposite – the feedback I get from the community and that Maryanne gets from the community is that the care that they get at this centre is first-class.”

The latest Bureau of Health Information statistics showed ISLHD’s emergency departments remained under pressure, with record high demand and patients requiring complex treatment.

Of the 42,714 ED attendances between January and March, there were 344 resuscitation presentations and 5420 emergency presentations – the highest numbers recorded in more than a decade.

Ms Stuart said reopening the UCC on weekends was a request she often heard from residents during her campaigning for the March election.

“There was an obvious need to extend the Urgent Care Centre hours to help take the load off Wollongong ED, but also to have something closer for the folks in the northern area,” she said.

“So I’m super proud. It brings me so much joy, and a little bit of emotion, that we have delivered on this so soon after the election.”

Bulli Hospital Urgent Care Centre is for minor issues and injuries only, similar to a GP. If residents are dealing with a more serious, complex or emergency situation they should call triple zero or go to Wollongong Hospital Emergency Department. If you’re unsure where to go, call the centre on 4249 1300 and staff will advise you.

Watch this ISLHD video that explains how the Urgent Care Centre works.

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