Labor and the Canberra Liberals have traded health announcements as the ACT election campaign moved into its first official week after the declaration of the caretaker period on Friday.
Labor says it will expand the network of nurse-led Walk-in Centres and Community Health Centres with five new facilities across Canberra’s suburbs, while both parties have made promises for a southside hydrotherapy pool – Labor at the Lakeside Leisure Centre in Tuggeranong and the Liberals contributing $5 million for a pool at the new private Wellness Centre in Deakin.
Chief Minister Andrew Barr says the local Walk-in Centres will be built in areas of future growth and need outside the town centres including South Tuggeranong, West Belconnen, the Inner South, Molonglo and North Gungahlin.
”The centres will complement the existing nurse-led Walk-in Centres, providing access to immediate care as well as appointment-based services that meet the needs of local communities,” he said.
Mr Barr says they will have a focus on prevention, early intervention and coordinated care for people with chronic illness.
”Nurse-led multidisciplinary teams will work closely with consumers, carers and general practitioners to help keep Canberrans out of hospital and take pressure off our emergency departments,” he said.
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But the Canberra Liberals say Labor should fix the ED first.
Labor will commit $2 million to an initial feasibility study, and each facility will require estimated funding of between $10 and 20 million, depending on site location, new build versus refurbishment and the size of the facilities.
The centres will be rolled out progressively between 2021 and 2022 and the middle of the decade.
Mr Barr says the commitment is part of Labor’s plan to hire at least 400 additional healthcare workers.
Existing Walk-in Centres will also expand their range of services under Labor’s health plans, employing more nurse practitioners and establishing an outpatient imaging service at Weston Creek Walk-in Centre with CT, ultrasound and X-ray capacity.
Labor has also promised new services for older Canberrans at Calvary Public Hospital in Belconnen, including a Centre for Excellence in Caring for Older People and refurbishment of a new $13.6 million innovative acute medical ward.
Health spokesperson Rachel Stephen-Smith says a re-elected Labor Government will also partner with Palliative Care ACT to establish a respite hub for people with life-limiting illness who wish to die at home.
“For those people who are approaching the end of their lives in Canberra Hospital, Labor will establish a dedicated palliative care ward to provide dignity and comfort for patients,” she said.
Meanwhile, Canberra Liberals Leader Alistair Coe says a Liberal government will partner with the John James Foundation and MS Australia and contribute $5 million for a hydrotherapy pool at the new ACT Wellness Centre due to be built in Deakin.
The closure of the hydrotherapy pool at Canberra Hospital meant patients had to travel to the new pool at the University of Canberra Hospital in Belconnen, but this was not always possible due to their physical conditions.
The Liberals took up their cause and after a review of the situation, the government in February provided $305,000 for sessions at the Aqua Harmony pool in Kambah as a short-term measure.
Labor now says it will construct a new facility in Tuggeranong for $3.15 million after a $250,000 feasibility study, and will also explore a co-location at the Erindale pool.
“We have heard from hydrotherapy pool users that, as our city grows, a second public facility is needed to support rehabilitation for injuries and improved health outcomes for Canberrans with chronic illness and pain. This commitment will ensure Canberrans in the south of our city have even better access to hydrotherapy, where and when they need it,” Ms Stephen-Smith said.
Liberals’ health spokesperson Vicki Dunne said the Canberra Liberals had been in discussions about the Wellness Centre and a possible government involvement since early 2019.
The Wellness Centre will provide a range of integrated services with neurological disorders and musculoskeletal conditions.