Opposition Leader Anthony Albanese has defended his $135 million election promise to fund 50 urgent medical care centres across the country, amid criticism it’s a copy of a previous policy.
Mr Albanese kicked off day three of the election campaign on Wednesday morning in the Greens-held seat of Melbourne, where he announced the four-year trial of the clinics in a bid to relieve clogged hospital emergency departments.
The bulk-billed clinics will be based at GP surgeries and community health centres nationwide, and will treat patients needing urgent care including for broken bones, minor burns and stitches for cuts.
Mr Albanese denied the plan was a recycled policy previously announced for the 2019 federal election.
“It wasn’t the same commitment, it wasn’t delivering the same service,” he told reporters.
“There’s a different commitment, different policy. This policy has been costed.”
Prime Minister Scott Morrison said Labor’s health policy was identical to a proposal pitched by former Labor prime minister Kevin Rudd.
“Now they are trying to borrow Kevin Rudd’s policies. My suggestion is … try and find (policies) that work,” he said.
Australian Medical Association president Dr Omar Khorshid said the idea was “superficially attractive”.
“When you scratch the surface, you see a model that is piecemeal, that fragments care even more, and does nothing to improve the average patient’s experience in primary care,” he said, adding both major parties were failing to deliver proper reform to modernise Medicare.
“GP practices are struggling to deliver care that patients need, and patients with chronic conditions are ending up in hospitals, ramped outside hospitals and ambulances because we are unable to look after their care properly in the community. So, it is time to reform Medicare,” he said.
Mr Albanese said families would be able to get the care they needed from the clinics without long wait times.
“These clinics are a key part of Labor’s plan to strengthen Medicare by making it easier to see a doctor,” he said.
“Medicare Urgent Care Clinics will take the pressure off emergency departments, so they can concentrate on saving lives.”
Labor’s health spokesman Mark Butler said the clinics would sit as a tier of care between a GP clinic and life-saving treatment at the emergency department.
“GPs around the country and community health centres have been trying to make this sort of model work, but it simply can’t stack up financially under the existing Medicare system,” he told ABC Radio.
“If we are going to to get this intermediate level of care, the urgent care between general practice and hospital care, you are going to need additional funding.”
Mr Albanese told health care workers at a rally in Melbourne’s CBD that Labor was the best protector of Medicare.
Introducing the party’s leader, deputy leader Richard Marles said Labor would back the health system should it win government.
“Australians will choose who they wake up with on May 22: Morrison or Medicare,” he said.
Mr Albanese said the opposition was listening to the concerns of healthcare workers.
“You’re like the roof of our society, our ultimate shelter and protection,” he said.
Meanwhile, Mr Albanese condemned the actions of a Young Labor activist who confronted the prime minister at a private event in Sydney on Tuesday night.
“I have seen footage of it and I think that gentleman – I don’t know who he was – his actions were entirely inappropriate. We need to have civil discourse,” he said.