At a time when General Practice is working harder than ever to ensure that Australians are vaccinated the Federal Government has decided to cut funding to General Practices.
General Practices rely on income coming directly from seeing patients with support from medicare, as well as Practice Incentive Payment (PIP) paid directly to qualified practices.
The PIP is used by Practices to provide the infrastructure that allows GPs to deliver the high quality primary care that Australians expect.
The PIP amount is based on a formula called SWPE. It is calculated based on the number of patient consultations with their GPs.
Last year the Government introduced telehealth consultation item numbers to allow patients to receive care via phone or video-link with their GPs.
Without consultation with any peak medical bodies, the government decided NOT to include these consultations as part of the calculation for SWPE and therefore reduced the payments made with under the PIP. Apparently arguing that the move was justified to encourage face-to-face care because it did not regard telehealth as a “full substitute” for in-person consults.
Telehealth consult requires a different skill-set and consumes the same amount of time if not more to assess and treat patients safely and appropriately. Extra infrastructure, software upgrades and hardware including internet expansion are needed on an ongoing basis to facilitate this process. These all have to come from the PIP support.
Without this support, many will have to revert back to face to face consultation- this is simply illogical, impractical and unsafe to do so during the pandemic.
A Geelong GP has started an online petition to request that all consultations attracting Medicare Benefits Schedule rebates be counted by the Department of Health in the calculation of general practice sizes and that retrospective catch-up payments are made to all eligible practices.