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General practices to hear back on vaccine rollout within two weeks


Anastasia Tsirtsakis


8/02/2021 5:50:26 PM

But with phase 1b due to begin next month, RACGP President Dr Karen Price has said GPs still need more guidance.

Online vaccination certificate
RACGP President Dr Karen Price hopes vaccination certificates will be ‘automated through a Government infrastructure’.

The Federal Government released more information over the weekend, including details on COVID vaccination certificates and when general practice clinics will know if they have been selected to take part.
 
More than 5000 general practice clinics have expressed interest in participating in the COVID vaccine rollout, but while RACGP President Dr Karen Price is ‘very proud’ of the enthusiastic response, she told newsGP practices need more guidance around logistics.
 
‘I think there’s a lot of people putting up their hands to say “I’ve got an interest, but I’m not sure how it’s going to work” and they’re still working through their logistics and implementation plans,’ she said.

‘I’m encouraged that GPs are doing that because they’re really stepping up for the nation. But again, there’s still a lot of the detail that goes into really safe healthcare that needs to be worked through.
 
‘How is the country going to support general practice to do what it does best, which is, this type of preventive activity?
 
‘I already had an 86-year-old patient this morning saying “well how will I be contacted?” And I can’t, at this point, give a very clear answer, and we’re wanting that kind of information for our patients, now.’
 
During a COVID-19 webinar for general practice on Friday, Dr Lucas De Toca, Acting First Assistant Secretary for the Department of Health’s (DoH) COVID-19 Primary Care Response, said the department understands that practices need time to prepare.
 
‘That’s why we also asked about what the practices thought was a day that they could start … we can use that information also to plan the different staggering of the practices as we come through,’ he said.
 
‘Of course if you receive an email saying “thank you, we are keen for you to start in early March as part of the practices in phase 1b at the very beginning” and you say “well actually it’s been two weeks since I submitted my application so I can’t do it in that timeframe, I need to be pushed back another couple of weeks”, that’s fine. Then we will consider rolling you out in the next tranche of practices.
 
‘I also recommend that you connect, if you haven’t already, with your PHN. Because all of them are organising very good, very comprehensive and very locally relevant webinars where all of these questions are also being addressed.’
 
Practices will likely receive a response to their expression of interest (EOI) within the next two weeks, Dr De Toca said, adding that the DoH expects the ‘vast majority’ of practices to be eligible, as the criteria is not dissimilar to the RACGP’s Accreditation Standards.
 
‘It is not a matter of “rejecting” any of the practices as the process goes by,’ he said.
 
‘It will just be a matter of identifying the ones that have indicated that they can start earlier in the rollout and that complement the geographic coverage that the state and territory vaccination clinics and other players play.
 
‘Of course the rollout and bringing online of practices is something that will happen gradually … [and] as more doses become available, we will rapidly increase the number of practices that are offered to join the program, so that we can rapidly scale up the coverage across the GP context as the weeks go by.
 
‘But the [Federal Health] Minister [Greg Hunt] has a clear commitment; eventually as the program continues, every general practice that is willing and able to deliver the vaccine will be able to do so.’

Dr-Karen-Price-Article.jpg
Dr Price said GPs still need more guidance ahead of the impending COVID vaccine rollout.

Once the rollout begins, all vaccinations will be required by law to be entered into the Australian Immunisation Register (AIR).
 
Patients will then be able to access digital proof of their vaccination via the MyGov website or the Express Plus Medicare app, or a hard copy by either contacting Services Australia or directly through their vaccination provider, according to Government Services Minister Stuart Robert.
 
But Dr Price warned that the prospect of practices having to administer vaccination certificates in the context of a mass vaccination clinic ‘is just not viable’.
 
‘We’re already uploading things to the AIR, we’re already having to go through a very potentially complicated consent and education process,’ she said.
 
‘It’s going to be too difficult to keep adding on more administrative tasks without the Government supporting this infrastructure.
 
‘Of course it’s an important process, but we’d really encourage it to be one that was automated through a Government infrastructure or that patients could source it themselves.
 
‘So I think we need to keep clarifying what will be required.’
 
Minister Hunt also confirmed late last week that everyone in Australia, including visa-holders and those not-eligible for Medicare, such as people in immigration detention with expired visas, will have free access to a vaccine. But, Dr De Toca clarified that this cohort will likely not be eligible to receive the vaccine through general practice.
 
‘Given that the rollout through general practice is primarily based on a Medicare Benefits Schedule plus practice incentive payment funding model, people who are not eligible for Medicare will not be able initially to access services through general practice,’ he said.
 
‘State and territory vaccination clinics, GP respiratory clinics who can bill the Commonwealth directly and [are] not restricted just by Medicare funding models, and other state-based facilities can provide access to people without Medicare eligibility.’
 
Before GPs and practice staff begin administering vaccines, they will also need to be vaccinated themselves. The DoH has now released the first online training module for Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine administrators, and signalled that the module for Oxford University/AstraZeneca is expected in the coming weeks, pending TGA approval.
 
Dr Toca said while the majority of these vaccinations will be during phase 1b, GPs who frequently visit residential aged care facilities, work in respiratory clinics, or work in emergency departments will be eligible under phase 1a.
 
Dr De Toca also assured GPs that the timeframe from 1a to 1b would only be ‘a matter of weeks’.
 
‘We are not waiting to complete the entire 1a population until we move on to the 1b,’ he said.
 
‘There’s going to be overlap in the phases.’
 
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Dr Christopher Michael Bollen   9/02/2021 9:12:00 AM

The Workforce Incentive Payment (WIP...previously known as PNIP) does need to be doubled at least to reflect extra work our great primary care nursing team members will be doing for patients during the COVID vaccination program plus the WIP calculation based on a cap of 5 FTE GP payments (calculated on SWPE) needs to be have the cap removed in order to ensure practices larger than 5 GPs are not disadvantaged.