Hospital waiting area
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Health policy experts on Friday criticized the federal government's move to fund 29 more Medicare Urgent Care Clinics (UCC), arguing there was no evidence to show they have been effective.

The Labor government outlined AU$227million to fund additional free UCCs, taking the number to 87 Medicare UCCs across the country, offering walk-in care, seven days a week over extended hours, completely bulk billed.

These clinics are expected to reduce the burden on emergency departments and ease out-of-pocket health costs, The Guardian reported. The 2024 budget has increased the funding for elderly care and put a freeze on medicines under PBS, especially for pensioners.

According to health experts, the UCC model has not been formally evaluated and so it is not clear if they have been effective.

Questioning the government's move, the Australian Medical Association and the Royal Australian College of General Practitioners said the UCCs have never been assessed formally, and the government should invest instead in general practice.

Dr Lesley Russell, from the University of Sydney's Menzies Centre for Health Policy and Economics, argued, "The mere recitation of numbers of services delivered is not an evaluation and the value of urgent care clinics is yet to be established."

The government has promised to give additional funding for UCCs located in regional, rural and remote Australia. "Medicare Urgent Care Clinics are already fulfilling their promise by making sure Australians can walk in and receive urgent care quickly and for free," Health Minister Mark Butler stated.

The UCCs were opened to help people with serious but not life-threatening injuries so that they could avoid casualty wards. The Labor government has been highlighting the success of UCCs in bringing down the emergency waiting period.

Health program director at Grattan Institute, Peter Breadon, said it was "understandable that the government wants to move fast to take pressure off hospitals. But before the new clinics are set up, information about how well the current clinics are working should be released."