20 May 2022

Major parties make last minute health pledges for Canberra

| Lottie Twyford
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Weston Creek Walk-in Centre

Federal Labor has announced it will fund a Medicare Urgent Care Clinic to provide a similar model of care to the ACT’s established Walk-in Centre. Photo: Thomas Lucraft.

The major parties have made last-minute health pitches ahead of tomorrow’s federal election.

If elected, Labor says it would build a ‘Medicare Urgent Care Clinic’ on Canberra’s southside while the Liberals have announced funding for a mental health service to support Canberrans bereaved by suicide.

Labor’s clinic would be one of 50 the party has pledged to build across the country. Similar to the established Walk-in Centre model of care Canberrans are already used to, it would be an alternative for people seeking urgent attention for non-life-threatening medical conditions from a nurse or doctor without having to go to an Emergency Department.

The party said it would work collaboratively with the ACT Government to ensure the clinic works with the established Walk-in Centres.

Care will be bulk-billed so there will be no out-of-pocket cost to families and the centre would be open from 8 am to 10 pm.

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Labor Senator Katy Gallagher explained the clinics would form part of the party’s plan to strengthen Medicare and make it easier to see a doctor.

“Medicare Urgent Care Clinics will help to take the pressure off emergency departments, so the focus there can be on saving lives in emergencies,” the Labor incumbent said.

Member for Fenner Andrew Leigh said being sick shouldn’t make people poor.

“Real wages have suffered their biggest fall this century, and healthcare costs are part of the problem. Only Labor can be trusted to provide the free and universal coverage that families so desperately need.”

For its part, a Liberal Government, if re-elected, would pour $300,000 into continuing to fund the StandBy – Support After Suicide postvention service in the ACT. These services support people who have been bereaved or impacted by suicide.

StandBy is an Australian Government initiative established in 2002 to provide free 24/7 face-to-face and telephone support for up to two years to people who lose loved ones to suicide.

This group is at a much higher risk of suicide than the general population.

The initiative also comprises a training element for community and professional groups.

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Liberal Senator for the ACT Zed Seselja said the funding would help protect the lives of vulnerable Canberrans.

“Postvention services such as StandBy provide essential care to people during some of the darkest moments of their lives,” Senator Seselja said.

“This additional funding will ensure that postvention services can continue to provide this much-needed support to Canberrans and will help keep members of our community safe.”

This year’s ACT Senate race is expected to be closer than previous ones with high-profile independents and minor-party candidates putting pressure on both incumbent senators.

Senator Seselja has previously warned voters of the danger of voting for ‘Green independents’ like David Pocock, while Senator Gallagher last week reminded voters she wasn’t ‘safe’ and would need their votes if she was to return to the Senate.

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