28 July 2023

Second Urgent Care Centre opens in Illawarra's northern suburbs

| Keeli Royle
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Alison Byrnes talking with worker at Corrimal Urgent Care Centre.

The new Medicare Urgent Care Clinic could help redirect thousands of patients away from Wollongong Hospital ED.

The Federal Government has launched a new bulk billing Urgent Care Centre in Corrimal, just five kilometres away from an existing state-run facility designed for the same purpose.

The new clinic opens 12 hours a day for non- and semi-urgent illnesses and injuries as an alternative to the emergency department.

Member for Cunningham Alison Byrnes said the centre would help to improve options for local families, and outcomes in hospitals.

“Around 40 per cent of presentations at Wollongong Hospital Emergency Department are for semi- and non-urgent conditions that can be treated in an urgent care clinic,” she said. “So it will help to take a lot of pressure off Wollongong Hospital and our hard-working doctors and nurses so they can focus on higher needs patients.”

According to data from the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare, around 30,000 patients attend Wollongong Hospital each year with a semi- or non-urgent condition, with non-urgent presentations increasing by almost 1000 between the reporting periods of 2020/21 and 2021/22.

READ ALSO BREAKING: Bulli Hospital’s Urgent Care Centre resumes Saturday opening hours

The Urgent Care Centre at the ForHealth Practice aims to treat those patients with issues such as minor infections, fractures, sprains, bites or rashes without the need for a booking or an extended wait time.

“They’ll have their normal medical practice and then they’ll have the Medicare Urgent Care Clinic, so if you’re presenting for the Medicare Urgent Care Clinic you’ll get assessed by a nurse and then progress through to see a doctor if you need to,” Ms Byrnes said.

The Member for Cunningham said State and Federal Governments are working together for the first time in a decade to solve issues within the hospital system and that there were other measures being put in place to help the system cope.

“At the federal level we’ve announced 20 transitional aged care beds to transition some of our elderly patients out of hospital and into appropriate aged care, we’ve done the 15 per cent pay rise for aged care staff and we’ve got 180,000 fee free TAFE places to help attract new staff into aged care and we’ve got nurses in our nursing homes as well.

“We’re tripling the bulk billing rate for concession card holders from November, so we’ve got a raft of things going out that will help to take some of the pressure off our public health system,” she added.

The Wollongong clinic is one of just 14 new Medicare Urgent Care Centres in New South Wales, with others planned for Albury, Batemans Bay, Blacktown, Campbelltown, Cessnock, Coffs Harbour, Gosford, Lismore, Penrith, Randwick, Tamworth, Westmead and Wyong.

While Ms Byrnes said the location was ideal because of the region’s need and Corrimal’s access to public transport, it is the second of its kind in the Illawarra’s northern suburbs, with the facility at Bulli Hospital just five minutes up the road.

But she insists our politicians are pushing for more, with a growing population in southern parts of the region.

READ ALSO Health Minister says Wollongong Hospital ED remains under ‘enormous pressure’

And NSW Health Minister and Keira MP Ryan Park said discussions were underway to see where centres might be suitable, but he did not confirm any new location.

“The NSW Government and NSW Health are in negotiations with primary health networks to establish more urgent care services in NSW, including within the Illawarra Shoalhaven region.

“We will have more to say on this soon.”

The Bulli Hospital Urgent Care Centre is currently only open six days a week but extending the service to every day of the week was an election pledge by the Minister.

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