Access to affordable, accessible and coordinated primary care is extremely important in the creation of an equitable and efficient health system that meets the needs of all Australians. The College supports any successful initiatives that improve access to primary care – particularly access to care in rural, regional, and remote areas, where the healthcare crisis is hitting hardest.
The announced urgent care services – if appropriately planned, located, financed, staffed, integrated into existing systems, and monitored – could give people faster care for urgent but non-critical conditions. They may also cause a small reduction in low acuity emergency department (ED) presentations.
However, while these services may reduce presentations to EDs, they are unlikely to solve the current crisis.
This is because the biggest issue contributing to emergency department pressures are not the patients with low acuity problems who can be treated and sent home, and could therefore receive definitive care at an urgent care service.
The primary driver of emergency department pressures are growing numbers of patients who are too sick, or too injured to go home. So, after being assessed and treated in the ED these patients require ongoing care – either in hospital or in community settings – but there is no space or resources for them to receive this care, in an acceptable timeframe.
These patients then suffer long waits, stuck in the emergency department. This then creates a bottleneck in the ED that leads to overcrowding, ambulance ramping, excessively long waits for care, staff burnout and distress, and poorer patient outcomes, that can include death.
This issue can only be fixed by a significant increase in resourcing across the health system, and particularly into inpatient capacity to accept patients. Fixing the healthcare crisis also requires better integration and coordination of all health services.
The College also awaits further information about the proposed staffing of these urgent care services. ACEM is concerned that without adequate planning these services might divert precious workforce away from EDs and lead to a disruption of longitudinal primary care.
ACEM and other health stakeholders have been advocating for solutions to the healthcare workforce crisis, and public attention has been drawn recently to the lack of specialist General Practitioners (GPs) and nursing staff, particularly senior nursing staff, across the health system.
ACEM is the peak body for emergency medicine in Australia and New Zealand, responsible for training emergency physicians and advancement of professional standards. www.acem.org.au
Melissa Howard [email protected] + 61 427 621 857