Anthony Albanese, Mark Butler: Medicare urgent care announcement

After a tumultuous start, Anthony Albanese is trying to get his election hopes back on track by tackling one of the biggest issues facing Australia.

Anthony Albanese is seeking to get his election campaign back on track by focusing on healthcare.

After a tumultuous start to the campaign plagued by Mr Albanese’s inability to answer two key economic questions, Labor is now promising cheaper and more accessible healthcare.

As hospital ramping continues to wreak havoc across the country, Mr Albanese will on Wednesday unveil a plan to ease pressure on emergency rooms by rolling out a measure proven successful in New Zealand.

Mr Albanese will pledge 50 urgent care clinics, with treatment to be bulk-billed, at a cost of $135m over four years.

The clinics will be based at GP surgeries and community health centres, and will be able to treat non-life-threatening injuries such as sprains, broken bones, wounds, minor ear and eye problems and minor burns.

Mr Albanese said the trial would be based on models like New Zealand, which has one of the lowest rates of emergency-department attendance in the developed world.

“Labor’s Medicare urgent care clinics will mean more families will get top quality care from a nurse or doctor without having to wait in a hospital emergency department,” Mr Albanese said.

“These clinics are a key part of Labor’s plan to strengthen Medicare by making it easier to see a doctor.”

Labor’s would-be health minister Mark Butler said under the plan, it would be cheaper and easier to see a doctor.

“Emergency departments are set up for the once-in-a-lifetime emergency – your very serious car accidents, your heart attacks and strokes and the like,” Mr Butler told Channel 7.

“But what we see is about four million presentations every single year of what they describe as non-urgent or semi-urgent care.”

But, the Australian Medical Association is calling on both sides of government to pledge more to save the country’s crippled system.

Queensland AMA president Chris Perry said Labor’s $135m pledge was “nothing”.

“(That’s) just taking the voters for chimps really. It is a nothing announcement. It’s not major,” Professor Perry told the Nine Network.

“Hopefully both sides of government will actually do something serious about our health system which has been underfunded for 30 years. Hospitals have been knocked down and rebuilt with half the beds.

“All the system needs more funding and I hope that the election campaign will do something about it.”

When pressed on whether rolling out the announcement now was an attempt to redirect the campaign trail, Mr Butler backed Mr Albanese.

“Anthony made a mistake. We all make mistakes. There is not a politician I know that hasn’t made a mistake at one time or another, but importantly he stuck his hand up and took responsibility for it,” Mr Butler said.

“I think Australians expect a leader to do (that). What I would think Australians want for us is to get back to outlining our plans for a better future and strengthening Medicare will be right at the centre of those plans for Labor.”

Labor’s announcement comes as the Greens unveil their plan to introduce dental care into Medicare.

In an address to the National Press Club on Wednesday, Greens leader Adam Bandt will outline his party’s plans to offer Australians access to bulk billed general dental care.

Meanwhile, the Coalition has pledged two grants of $125m will go to two refineries in Queensland and Victoria to shore up Australia’s domestic fuel supply.

Scott Morrison’s announcement comes as Russia’s war in Ukraine continues to disrupt global fuel supply chains.

“Oil refineries literally fuel a stronger economy and these investments will help keep our truckies, miners, defence force and farmers moving across Australia,” Mr Morrison said.

The grants will be matched by the Ampol refinery in Brisbane and the Viva Energy refinery in Geelong for major facility upgrades and to strengthen local production.

Originally published as Labor unveils plans for urgent care clinics to ease pressure on emergency departments

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