The Emerald Hospital.
The Emerald Hospital. Contributed

Emerald after-hours clinic to close as trial fails

A LACK of patients and a loss of patience are the reasons for the closure of the Emerald After Hours GP Practice at the end of June.

CQ Medicare Local chairman Bruce Elliot said the 12-month trial was in the red to the tune of just shy of $100,000, and the lack of patronage meant it was unsustainable.

The clinic was co-located in the Emerald Hospital, and offered the option of GP services for people presenting to the emergency department.

"The modelling we did was based on the premise we would get about five patients per session and we were offering sessions every day of varying hours," Mr Elliot said.

"We were setting up the program as a cost-neutral exercise, but unfortunately what we were seeing was on average between two and three patients per shift and quite often they were the GP's own patients coming to see them.

"It was a substantial loss, and it certainly wasn't sustainable - just under six figures per annum.

"We don't have the budget to absorb that, and it is obviously with great regret that we have to close the clinic."

Mr Elliot said there was a range of anecdotal reasons behind the clinic's loss, one of which was that changes in co-location within the hospital made it harder for patients to find it.

"Also... I don't know if there was a reluctance, but there was difficulty in getting patients actively referred from the emergency department to the clinic, which could have helped boost numbers and make it financially viable for the future," Mr Elliot said.

But he stressed the community would not be disadvantaged by the closure.

"This was always entered into as a trial, and it came back to how the community embraced it as well," Mr Elliot said.

"Now it is up to each individual GP to work out how they're going to provide after-hours service, and we will continue to provide funding incentives for GPs to provide that care."

Dr Ewen McPhee said the Emerald Medical Group would extend its opening hours at night and on weekends in an effort to compensate for the loss of the clinic.

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