Royal Australian College of GPs Rural Chair and Townsville-based GP Dr Michael Clements has called on whoever wins government in the upcoming federal election to give general practice care a much needed shot in the arm.
Earlier this year, the RACGP launched its Federal Election Statement that calls for continuous and comprehensive GP care that includes:
· new service incentive payments to improve regular, continuous, and preventive care for older people
· increasing Medicare rebates for patients who need longer appointments with their GP
· retaining telehealth rebates for patients to have longer telehealth consultations with their GP via telephone
· a new service incentive payment for patients with mental health issues that supports the grouping of a services including a GP mental health treatment plan and a physical health assessment
· a new service incentive payment for people living with disability that provides for a health assessment and completion of National Disability Insurance Scheme reports and documentation
· introducing additional support for GPs to see their patient within seven days of an unplanned hospital admission or emergency department presentation
· greater investment in rural healthcare including increasing Workforce Incentive Programs with additional payments for GPs who use advanced skills in rural areas and providing access to the relevant specialty Medicare Benefits Schedule items when a GP holds advanced skills in areas such as mental health or paediatrics
Dr Clements said that patients in Townsville and the surrounding region deserve nothing less.
“The future of general practice care should be front and centre in this campaign,” he said.
“Often during election campaigns, GPs and general practice teams are taken for granted and that must change. GPs, practice managers, nurses, receptionists, and administrative workers are needed now by patients in Townsville and surrounding areas more than ever before. Practices are delivering COVID-19 vaccines and boosters as well as influenza vaccines, caring for people with COVID-19 as well as those patients who have delayed or avoided consultations and screenings during the pandemic. We are also helping people with mental health concerns exacerbated by the stresses associated with the pandemic.
“The pressures facing general practice have not sprung up overnight either. It’s important to remember that we were already facing an ageing population, rising rates of chronic disease such as diabetes and more and more patients presenting with mental health concerns. There are fault lines in our health system that if not properly addressed will lead to patients in areas such as Townsville and surrounding areas not being able to access the care they need.
“In January this year, the Royal Australian College of GPs released our Election Statement. This statement outlines a series of reforms, including increases to Medicare rebates, that will enhance the efficiency of Australia’s health system and significantly improve long-term patient health outcomes. Everyone deserves access to high-quality general practice care, no matter their postcode and that includes people in my local area.”
The RACGP Rural Chair said that boosting general practice care would help ensure no one fell between the cracks of the health system.
“It’s vital that we boost investment in general practice care,” he said.