AGPA urges focus on the viability of General Practices.

The AGPA welcomes the decision of the Australian Government to extend MBS (Medical Benefits Schedule) Telehealth item numbers to cover all members of the community and all GPs regardless of the circumstances. This will help to reduce the risk of COVID-19 transmission and support the maintenance of necessary patient care.

AGPA also applauds the recognition of General Practice and primary health care in leading the fight against the Pandemic.

However, AGPA urges the removal of requirements for the bulk billing only of Telehealth items as quickly as possible.

Many General Practices in Australia are structured in a way that private billing of patients is essential for their financial viability.

The viability of General Practices has come under significant strain in recent weeks as workloads have increased due to dealing with COVID-19 enquiries and changed work practices, while consultations have decreased as patients avoid the perceived risk of infection in waiting rooms.

If General Practices are to successfully maintain primary health care during the Pandemic their viability needs to be secured. Government must not interfere with the relationship between patients and Doctors and should allow Practices to decide how to manage their businesses and organise their billing structures

Media Release

AGPA Calls for Extension of Telehealth

16 March 2020

The Australian GP Alliance (AGPA) congratulates the Government on its decision to introduce Telehealth consultations for Australians who are classified as “at risk of COVID19”.

Supporting all high risk groups to reduce their exposure to COVID-19 by reducing time in waiting rooms, and public areas is welcomed.

AGPA notes that the ability to consult via Telehealth is limited to a Doctor who has held a consultation with the person in the last 12 months. This is too restrictive and unhelpful.

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Practice Partners’ Reflections

Tom Skotnicki *

David and Trina Gregory first met in 1987 as young ED registrars. David took the lead in setting up their first practice in Port Macquarie the following year while Trina had six children over the next few years. Both are still working as GPs, albeit in Canberra. But when Practice Matters asked them if they would do it again if they were starting out today there was a cautious reaction. They both agreed that the 1980s was a far simpler time for General Practice.

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Is the PIP QI important?

Oliver Frank *

Practices participating in the QI PIP will receive 70 cents or less per consultation, if one divides the $5.00 per patient per year offered by the scheme by the average of seven visits per year that Australians make to general practice.  For practices with more than 10,000 SWPEs (standardised whole patient equivalent), the payment per consultation is likely to be less than 70 cents, because the QI PIP payment is capped at $50,000 per practice per year.  Apart from being able to receive this relatively small amount of money, are there any other reasons why GPs should or would see this new scheme as important?

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Where does General Practice fit in the overall Australian Health System?

Nathan Pinskier *

AGPA has the potential to play a vital role in the future of Australian health policy development as the status of General Practice within the overall healthcare system has never been comprehensively defined. General practitioners have a clear role but does General Practice?

General Practice is not by definition a public healthcare service yet it provides a comprehensive range of services to the public. It is largely regarded as a private primary care service but is underpinned by federal dollars (Medicare, DVA, PIP etc..) and as a result is subject to some oversight and a level of control by the Federal Department of Health.

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Do hospitals and hospital based specialists appreciate General Practice?

Karen Price

First of all let me precede my comments with a caveat drawn from social media, hashtag #notallspecialists.

I have on occasion heard hospital based specialists be incredulous that GPs do not have routine access to the eTG (therapeutic guidelines) and the inevitable “GPs should…..” statement followed.  It seems that those who made the observation were blissfully unaware of the thousands of dollars an eTG subscription would cost the average General Practice in an economic environment of underfunding of primary care. Most hospital based specialists appear to have no appreciation of the cost of doing GP medical business.    Another wondered whether the education provided to GPs should be at a final year medical student level?  I subsequently wondered if our fellowship was invisible.   I hear from those in my family who are in the hospital environment how often the hidden curriculum of “Just a GP” comes up in informal hospital settings and I wonder why?

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Letter to GPs

John Deery, Chair, AGPA

Some of you may be wondering why AGPA wrote directly to the profession last month calling for an end to the disrespect of General Practice by successive governments. The simple answer is that it was overdue.

The reality is that running a GP practice in Australia has become increasingly problematical in the face of issues such as the Medicare freeze, changes to rebate rates in various geographical areas, restrictions on the GP workforce, and the attempts to cut a sweetheart deal with pathology on co-location rentals. The cavalier attitude adopted to the legitimate fears over access to patient and practice data inherent in the PIP QI arrangements is just the latest example of a failure to listen to General Practice.

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