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Fifty-eight urgent care clinics have opened up across Australia. Picture: Supplied/Leighton Smith.

Urgent care clinics open up nationwide

The Albanese Government's early campaign promise of establishing more than 50 urgent care clinics (UCC) has taken shape as 58 UCCs are now open across Australia.

Health Minister Mark Butler said the UCCs were starting to deliver care seven days a week for extended hours, taking much-needed pressure off emergency departments.

"This is making a real difference in the community," Mr Butler said.

"You know, tens of thousands of people getting that care, free of charge, when and where they need it in their own community.

"It's also making a material difference to the pressure on hospital emergency departments."

Early data published by the Queensland State Government found that in areas where UCCs had opened, non-urgent and semi-urgent presentations in the ED were down.

"Logan Hospital was down by 10 per cent and Ipswich at 25 per cent," the minister said.

"It will take a little bit of time for hospitals to get their data and start reporting them.

"But we have seen [a big spike in presentations] to UCCs, which shows, again, just how important this model of care is."

However, an analysis of the 11 UCCs in Queensland found that only four operated on extended hours, closing at 10pm.

Bundaberg had the shortest opening hours of 8am to 5pm on weekdays, stating that the clinic will initially operate "during our normal business hours".

Rockhampton operated seven days a week from 8am to 5pm and Townsville from 11am to 9pm seven days a week.

The rest closed at 8pm.

Mr Butler said health staff shortages contributed to the reduced opening hours at the clinics.

"I've been quite open that a number of the clinics will take a little while to attract the workforce to ensure that they operate at every single hour that we'd like them to," he said.

"But in the meantime, we're working very closely with local hospital systems and with the Primary Health Networks ... to make sure that the opening hours do match the peak level or peak times of demand at local hospital emergency departments."

Last month, another $1.2bn funding was added to strengthen Medicare, with one of the focuses being on urgent care expansions – especially for longer stay older Australians.

"[We] will also focus on trying to relieve some pressure from longer stay older patients ... who could be much more appropriately cared for, after a hospital stay, somewhere else in the system," Mr Butler said.

"[Urgent Care] fills a very significant gap in the Australian healthcare system, delivers care that people need when and where they need it.

"It's already demonstrably taking pressure off hospital systems."

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