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Not-so-super clinic yet to treat a patient, $13m later


A GP Super Clinic promised more than six years ago has still not opened despite a $13.2 million investment by the Federal Government.
Department of Health officials told a Senate Estimates hearing that the clinic in Redcliffe, just outside Brisbane, was undergoing renovations and was not yet operational.
The previous Labor Government promised in 2007 that 64 GP Super Clinics would be opened across the country to help address shortages of GPs and to relieve the burden on the public hospital system.
But the scheme has been dogged by cost blowouts and delays, and the Abbott Government is believed to be looking closely at shutting it down.
The AMA has called for the Government to cut its losses and shut the program down, and instead direct unspent monies to provide improved support for GPs.
In a damning assessment released in July, the Commonwealth Auditor-General found that although almost $420 million had so far been spent on to the $600 million program, only three of the 36 clinics promised in 2007 were completed on time, with seven still not operational, while just one of the 28 announced in 2010 was fully functional.
Echoing concerns long-held by the AMA that the program was poorly conceived and was a bad use of scarce health funds, the Auditor-General found that in setting up the clinics, there had been little attempt to assess the level of local need and what affect it might have on existing medical services.
“While…program guidelines required applications to address the extent to which a proposed clinic could impact on existing health services, this issue was not explicitly or substantively considered in the overall assessment,” the ANAO report said, noting one instance where the main patient access to an existing GP practice was funnelled through the waiting room of a Super Clinic.
The Abbott Government’s Commission of Audit is expected to closely scrutinise the program and its continuation.
Adrian Rollins