COVID vaccination EOIs give general practices ‘a seat at the table’

Anastasia Tsirtsakis

27/01/2021 4:45:57 PM

The RACGP is encouraging practices to submit their expression of interest, along with any concerns around the proposed delivery and funding model.

GP on a laptop in an office.
General practices need to consider the viability of participating in the vaccine rollout.

Steps to deliver the Federal Government’s COVID vaccine roadmap are now underway.
The Department of Health (DoH) issued an expression of interest (EOI) program late last week, calling on accredited general practices that are willing and able to participate in phase 1b to administer the University of Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine.
But concerns have been raised over the Government’s proposed funding and delivery model, and its suitability for smaller practices.
RACGP President Dr Karen Price, who has been in negotiations with the DoH and Federal Health Minister Greg Hunt, told newsGP while she understands the concern, it should not deter practices from submitting an EOI.
‘We recognise that the current funding model is primarily suitable for mass vaccination clinics with pre-consent processes, and may not be suitable for smaller clinics in both metro and rural areas who are already running at capacity,’ she said.
‘COVID-19 vaccination clinics are not the same as flu vaccination clinics, so every practice will need to consider the viability of participating in the vaccine rollout within the context of funding.
‘We encourage practices to consider submitting an EOI. Submitting an EOI does not lock general practices into anything at this stage, and it will allow practices to have a seat at the table regarding next steps.’
As it stands, practices participating in the rollout will be permitted to claim a Level A attendance and double bulk billing incentive for the first vaccine, a Level A and a single bulk-billing incentive for the second vaccine, followed by an additional $10 incentive if both doses of the vaccine are administered to the same person at the same practice.
While the item descriptors have not yet been released, it is understood that vaccine services must be bulk billed, and that the item numbers will not be subject to the 80:20 rule.
As per the Medicare Benefits Schedule (MBS), the financial supports will range between $65 and $99.20 in total for each fully vaccinated patient, depending on where the clinic is located and whether the vaccine is administered during business or after hours.
Additional State Government funding may also be available to support the vaccine rollout to rural and diverse communities where mass vaccination clinics are not suitable.
Among the requirements for practices is that they must:

  • have an area available in the clinic for patients to wait pre- and post- vaccination
  • be able to adhere to strict infection prevention and control standards
  • have sufficient staff to participate in resuscitation in the event of an adverse event. 
The EOI, scheduled to close at 11.59 pm AWST on 1 February, is currently capped at 1000 practices and the submission process does not commit practices to participating.
Pending vaccine approval from the Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA), phase 1b is planned to commence in March. This phase will include priority populations including healthcare workers who were not part of phase 1a, such as general practice staff, along with people aged 70 years and over, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander adults, critical and high-risk workers, and those considered to be at increased risk of severe disease.

With GPs already delivering the majority of vaccines to Australians, Dr Price says general practice is ideally placed to play a leading role in the COVID vaccine rollout, and encouraged practice managers to think outside the box.
‘General practices are the most accessible primary healthcare service across all rurality areas, with trusted ongoing relationships with patients and communities,’ she said.
‘So it is important that practices in a position to do so get on board with the rollout, as patients with severe disease and those over the age of 70 in the phase 1b cohort are most likely to turn to their GP for the COVID vaccination.
‘Members should consider collaborating with other practices locally, and coordinating access and patient flow to support both continuity of care and access.’
Dr Price also said the college will continue to advocate both for general practice, and patient access, in the vaccine rollout.
‘Leading GP groups, including the RACGP, are still negotiating on behalf of members for a workable phase 2 rollout, including clarity around MBS descriptors and MDO [Medical Defence Organisation] insurance being a key part of a successful nationwide effort,’ she said.
‘This is a government and public health-led rollout and we will continue to advocate for patient access and safety in all contexts.’ 
Further information on the COVID-19 vaccine rollout is available on the RACGP website.
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Dr James Courts   28/01/2021 7:28:00 AM

More like a table for two, the AMA and RACGP can get cosy together on their own in the restaurant of incompetence.

Dr Primo Phillip Bentivegna   28/01/2021 8:41:33 AM

I have a better idea... how about no GP's sign the EOI, and bring Canberra to its knees!
Then we can have a prior proper negotiation.

Dr George Edwar Sayegh   28/01/2021 9:24:14 AM


Rural GO   28/01/2021 10:55:28 AM

RACGP figures suggest over 6000 practices throughout Australia and we have funding for 1000.
Thats not a seat at the table, thats called ghosting.
I have betrayed my patients, telling them we will be giving the vaccine . Hollow words again, from the government.

Dr Christopher Michael Damien Podagiel   28/01/2021 3:24:36 PM

I'm greatly concerned that this EOI has the effect of preventing me from vaccinating my existing patients unless I offer my private practice as a public vaccination clinic, complete with mandated use of external booking processes and requirements of increased staff, infrastructure, and opening hours. My opinion is that this could have been easily operated as a mirrored version of the influenza vaccination program, which is already established, practiced, and effective.

Dr Helena Bronwen Spencer   28/01/2021 3:32:54 PM

Whilst I agree with Dr Price that older patients are more likely to want vaccination with their own doctor, the requirement to vaccinate patients who don't belong to your practice is my final decider against any EOI. The additional time and paperwork getting an appropriate medical history and entering new patients details is too onerous.
I am with Dr Bentivegna -if the GP response is silence , problem areas can be renegotiated.

Dr Pearlle Mew Nin Chan   29/01/2021 3:43:16 AM

All registered GPs should be allowed to be a vaccinators . There should not be discrimination between accredited and nonaccredited practice