Ballarat residents seeking urgent medical attention will soon have access to care outside of emergency departments, thanks to a soon-to-be opened Priority Primary Care Centre in Ballarat.

Priority Primary Care Centres, or PPCCs, offer care for people with conditions that require urgent care without an emergency response.

Operated by UFS Medical, Ballarat’s new PPCC is one of 25 PPCCs to be announced by the Victorian Government, and the first located outside of Melbourne. The Ballarat PPCC will open on 31 October.

Prof. Suzanne Robinson Deakin University
Professor Suzanne Robinson is head of Deakin Health Economics at the Institute for Health Transformation

PPCCs are GP-led services that aim to reduce demand on emergency departments by providing an alternative service for low-acuity conditions, according to Professor Suzanne Robinson, Director of Deakin Health Economics at Deakin University’s Institute for Health Transformation.

Professor Robinson and her team will soon commence an evaluation of the Ballarat PPCC. The project will assess the PPCC’s effectiveness in reducing demand on emergency departments and determine the cost-effectiveness of doing so.

‘Researching the Ballarat PPCC will allow us to gain a greater understanding of how we can reduce emergency department wait times and improve timely and quality care for patients,’ Professor Robinson says.

‘PPCCs show promise as a potential means of providing vital urgent care for communities while also relieving pressure on hospital emergency departments’.

‘Our evaluation will highlight the impact of the PPCC model on both patient and staff experiences within emergency departments, how PPCCs might be utilised by community members and the extent to which the Ballarat PPCC reduced demand on the Ballarat Base Hospital emergency department, among other things.’

According to the Victorian Agency for Health Information, there were 54,559 presentations to the Grampians Health’s Ballarat Base Hospital Emergency Department in 2021-22. Of these, 42.4 per cent were triaged as urgent but not an emergency.

Andrew Giddy, Acting CEO of the Western Victoria Primary Health Network (WVPHN), says the new centre will open prior the end of 2022 and will provide additional urgent health care support for the people of Ballarat.

‘People suffering conditions such as mild infections, fractures and burns will be able to receive treatment from the Ballarat PPCC instead of having to wait in emergency at the Ballarat Base Hospital,’ Mr Giddy said. ‘WVPHN welcomes the addition of the Ballarat PPCC to primary health support services in western Victoria.’

Of the partnership between Deakin University and WVPHN, Professor Rachel Huxley, Executive Dean of Deakin’s Faculty of Health, says the partnership will enable WVPHN to collaborate with Deakin to develop an approach to primary care translational research and further their mutual interests in improving the health experiences of people residing in western Victoria.

‘Deakin and WVPHN have a shared commitment in improving health and wellbeing of people living in western Victoria,’ she says. ‘The evaluation of the Ballarat PPCC is an exciting first project for Deakin University’s partnership with WVPHN.’