News

Election wrap up


Matt Woodley


17/05/2019 3:25:39 PM

newsGP looks at the RACGP’s biggest moments from the election campaign, including the push for parties to put patients first.

Election 2019 wrap up
The RACGP has been incredibly active during the 2019 campaign.

The launch of the college’s 2019 election campaign began with a call to invest in four key areas and finished with an open letter from President Dr Harry Nespolon that questioned ‘who will care for all Australians?’
 
The letter, addressed to Prime Minister Scott Morrison and Opposition Leader Bill Shorten, was published in major newspapers across the country and drew attention to the lack of policy announcements or major investments related to primary healthcare.
 
It went on to request a commitment from both sides to provide flexible access to care by formalising the patient–GP relationship, and support longer consultations for complex care patients and those with mental health issues.
 
‘Unlike most medical specialties, GPs are at the forefront of patient healthcare,’ the letter stated.
 
‘They see almost 90% of the Australian population in a year, including many of society’s most vulnerable people … This election is about health. Both major parties need to release their primary healthcare policy so Australians can decide.’
 
Modernising the manner in which medicine is delivered has been a central part of the RACGP’s campaign to make general practice ‘the most important issue’ of the 2019 election.
 
Improving flexibility by introducing patient rebates for non–face-to-face care and reducing patient out-of-pocket costs have been central tenets of the campaign, as has increasing support for mental health services and investing in longer consultations for the delivery of complex care.
 
Dr Nespolon also asked GPs to advocate and increase awareness of these issues by talking to patients and writing to local electoral candidates, and many members responded to the call.
 
The sustained campaign resulted in a bipartisan commitment from the major parties to reduce the burden of chronic disease by establishing a new funding model aimed at improving health outcomes for patients with a chronic condition – a development described as positive news for both GPs and patients.
 
Article-image-jpg.jpg
President Dr Harry Nespolon (right) answers questions alongside Queensland GP Dr Deb Sambo at the launch of the RACGP election campaign.

Under the new model, patients over the age of 70 will be able to voluntarily enrol with their usual general practice, which will in turn be responsible for the management of their healthcare.
 
‘For every enrolled patient, the practice will receive a payment to support flexible care models essential for quality care,’ Dr Nespolon explained.
 
‘This includes following up with a specialist, telephone and email consultations with the patient, checking-in with a family member or carer, or other related items not currently supported by the MBS [Medicare Benefits Schedule].’
 
The major parties also pledged to end the Medicare freeze, but neither has a policy of returning rebates to what they would have been had they increased with the consumer price index, which Dr Nespolon criticised in a recent Sky News interview
 
‘Out-of-pocket expenses are increasing every year and will continue to increase every year. The Medicare freeze has stopped, but that’s in 2019, and from 2013 to 2018 it took over a billion dollars out of general practice,’ he said.
 
Dr Nespolon also challenged the Government’s widely touted 86.1% bulk-billing rate and pointed to a 2018 Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (AIHW) report that found one million Australians delayed or avoided seeking care from their doctor due to cost concerns. 
 
‘When we talk bulk-billing rates, we’re talking services, not about the number of people who have been charged,’ he said.
 
‘The Government never releases those figures … our guess is it’s probably one third to one quarter of the population paying to see their GPs at the moment.’
 
The Coalition and Labor revealed their visions for the future of Australian healthcare at a National Press Club debate earlier this month, much of which focused on preventive care and mental health.
 
The Greens have also released a $3.5 billion healthcare platform that prioritises preventive medicine and treating patients with chronic disease.
 
GP-specific aspects of the Coalition’s plan include $550 million for the Stronger Rural Health Strategy, which in part could fund more than 3000 additional GPs in regional Australia, and a pledge of more than $62 million to implement a National Rural Generalist Pathway.
 
Mr Shorten has vowed his party will end the freeze on indexation for 100 general practice MBS items within 50 days of the coming election and has promised $115 million to help ‘close the gap’ between Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples and non-Indigenous Australian’s health.



Federal Election politics RACGP



Login to comment