Australian Medical Association Raises Concerns Over “Super Clinics”

by Gopalan on Dec 3 2008 1:46 PM

The Australian Medical Association has voiced fears two more "super clinics" announced for patients in Midland and Wanneroo could put 'cornershop' GPs in the area out of business.

The West Australian government has announced invitations to apply for the two new super clinics. The AMA is objecting.

Health Minister Kim Hames said the facilities would be tailored to meet the needs of local communities.

“Local communities will benefit from increased access to multidisciplinary care, which will be co-ordinated by the GP to help manage patients’ conditions better and therefore reduce demand on emergency departments,” Dr Hames said.

“The super clinics will also support preventative health care and promote healthy lifestyles, while helping (to) attract and retain health professionals and support primary health care research with purpose-built education and training facilities,” he noted.

Federal Health Minister Nicola Roxon said she was pleased with the level of community interest when she attended the consultations.

 “GP Super Clinics are a key element in building a stronger primary care system. They will provide a greater focus on health promotion and illness prevention and better coordination between privately provided GP and allied health services, community health and other State and Territory Government funded services.

The Australian Government has committed $275 million over five years, starting in 2007-08, to establish GP Super Clinics in 31 localities across Australia,” says the federal  government website.

Australian Medical Association (WA) president Professor Gary Geelhoed said, "The … concern is the impact it will have on other GP services that are out there, and whether in fact it is unfairly competing with these services," Prof Geelhoed said.

"If it fulfilled all its purposes it might be worthwhile travelling there.

"But they have opened up several polyclinics in the UK and some of the criticism there is that people have to travel much further now, rather than their local GP."

In the UK, the British Medical Association launched a vocal campaign against the polyclinic, amassing 1.2 million signatories to a petition calling for local GP surgeries to be protected.

Prof Geelhoed said that while the AMA would welcome any increase in funding for the frontline care of patients, how the super clinics would be funded after being set up was also a concern.

"It seems to be all things to all people, so everyone would applaud a centre that would have access to all the ancillary care and specialists and GPs all on the one site," Prof Geelhoed said.

"But the model provides for just the bricks and mortar essentially, and some setting up costs.

"As we understand it all, the funding would come from GPs bulk billing, and that is where it seems to fall down, because GPs are having trouble maintaining their services and incomes of bulk billing.

"We are saying, how are you going to fund all these other activities, and all the other stuff, if the only funding is going to come form GPs bulk billing.

"There is a piece of the jigsaw missing … we worry whether this is the right model and whether it will be a white elephant, and the funding does not match the promise."

Applications for the new clinics will be open until late January 2009 and will be assessed by a joint federal and state team.