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The Australasian College for Emergency Medicine (ACEM; The College) notes today’s reports of Urgent Care Centres (UCCs) once again under consideration to help address chronic overcrowding and access block issues facing Tasmanian hospitals.
The College acknowledges that access to UCCs – which aim to provide patients with immediate, non life-threatening health issues with alternatives to visiting emergency departments – would be welcomed in communities where it has been difficult to access urgent GP appointments. 
However, ‘GP-type’ patients with minor ailments are not the cause of overcrowded and access blocked emergency departments (EDs) – seriously sick/injured patients requiring admission are – and the College warns UCCs on their own will not solve the many issues hospitals and EDs are currently facing.
ACEM Tasmania Faculty Chair Dr Juan Carlos Ascencio-Lane said:

“We welcome consideration of boosting community health resources, but our concern is UCCs will not solve the immediate major issues facing Tasmanian hospitals and EDs.
These issues are overwhelmingly caused by system and capacity shortcomings, leading to an inability to admit seriously ill or injured patients to hospital inpatient beds, and system-wide solutions are required.
Noting that the current proposal for UCCs is only at the feasibility stage, we are also concerned that it would be some time before such centres would be operational. Urgent care models have been trialled in a number of jurisdictions and there is scant evidence of their effectiveness in reducing ED crowding.
We are eager to continue working with the Tasmanian Government to implement solutions to the immediate significant issues the state’s hospitals and emergency departments are facing.”
ACEM President Dr John Bonning said:

“It is a popular but misguided public narrative that ‘GP-type’ patients are the main cause of crowding and therefore access block in EDs.

“Patients with relatively minor ailments who present to EDs generally do not require beds or admission to hospital, and attributing the dangerous crowding and access block which occurs in EDs to such patients risks distracting from the systemic and deep-rooted causes of such issues.

“Aiming to keep people out of hospital via preventative measures or early healthcare intervention is absolutely something we should all be aiming for, but we must also address deep-rooted systemic and resourcing issues which cause dangerous ED crowding and hospital access block.

“While we welcome the proactive seeking of solutions, we encourage the Tasmanian Government to continue consulting with and seeking input from emergency clinicians on the ground, to find genuine and long-term solutions to these current and longstanding issues in the state’s hospitals.”
Background:  ACEM is the peak body for emergency medicine in Australia and New Zealand, responsible for training emergency physicians and advancement of professional standards.

Media Contact: Andrew MacDonald, [email protected], 0498 068 023