News

Government heeds general practice calls for more coronavirus support


Matt Woodley


11/03/2020 1:55:00 PM

A substantial portion of the Federal Government’s $2.4 billion health package will go towards primary care efforts to combat the disease.

Greg Hunt, Scott Morrison, Brendan Murphy
Prime Minister Scott Morrison (centre) said Australia is as well prepared as any country in the world. (Image: AAP)

Around $100 million has been set aside to fund Medicare rebates for telehealth coronavirus consultations, while $206.7 million has been earmarked for 100 pop-up respiratory clinics designed to see up to 75 patients a day and take pressure off general practices and hospitals.
 
Another $1.1 billion will go towards ensuring patients and critical healthcare staff have face masks and other personal protective equipment (PPE), such as surgical gowns, goggles and hand sanitiser.
 
RACGP President Dr Harry Nespolon said the long-anticipated announcement would be welcome news for GPs, and help to protect vulnerable patients from unnecessary exposure to the coronavirus.
 
‘The college has been consistently advocating for the introduction of new telephone MBS item numbers as a practical measure to improve the public health response to this potential pandemic,’ he told newsGP.
 
‘GPs have been crying out for more support and I thank the Government for listening to our calls. We are a vital part of Australia’s frontline defence against coronavirus and I am confident a fully-resourced general practice sector will once again go above and beyond to protect the community.
 
‘However, telephone services and dedicated fever clinics are only part of the solution, and I look forward to GPs receiving the much needed PPE promised by the Government.’
 
The Government said it expects up to 80% of patients with mild symptoms related to coronavirus will be directed to GPs or ‘a network of well-resourced GP-led respiratory clinics’.
 
GPs have been encouraged to revisit the RACGP’s Telehealth video consultation guide, which outlines the clinical, administrative and technical considerations related to this mode of healthcare delivery.
 
Upon announcing the new health package, Prime Minister Scott Morrison said Australia is ‘as well prepared as any country in the world’.
 
‘This package is about preventing and treating coronavirus in the coming weeks,’ he said.
 
‘Our medical experts have been preparing for an event like this for years and this is the next step up in Australia’s plan.
 
‘Our Government, alongside the country’s leading medical experts, is working around the clock to ensure we have the right tools, information and resources to keep Australians safe.’
 
Bulk-billed telehealth consultation services will be running from Friday 13 March, and available to suspected coronavirus cases as well as people aged over 70, those with chronic diseases, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people aged over 50, people who are immunocompromised, pregnant women and new parents with babies.
 
Primary Health Networks will coordinate with the RACGP, the Australian Medical Association (AMA), and states and territories to identify areas where pop-up clinics are most needed.
 
The clinics will be a ‘one-stop-shop’ for people who are concerned they may have the virus, and will allow them to be tested and isolated from other patients.
 
Other aspects of the package include:

  • $170.2 million to establish a bulk-billed pathology test for COVID-19 (coronavirus), which will also test for influenza
  • more than $50 million to expand the national triage phone line
  • $25 million to enable people in home isolation and vulnerable patient groups to have their Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme (PBS) prescriptions filled online or remotely, and have the medicines delivered to their home
  • nearly $59 million for people living and working in remote locations, in particular Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities. Funding will support tools to proactively screen visitors and fly-in, fly-out workers, additional support to evacuate early cases if required, and the establishment of mobile respiratory clinics to quickly respond to outbreaks where there is no hospital or available health service.
Meanwhile, $101.2 million has been allocated to educate and train aged care workers in infection control, and enable aged care providers to hire extra nurses and aged care workers for both residential and home care.
 
Australia’s case numbers have more than doubled in the past week, reaching 112 at the time of publication on Wednesday 11 March. Three Australians have died so far, but Australia’s Chief Medical Officer Professor Brendan Murphy has said it is highly unlikely people will catch the virus twice.
 
Globally, there have been at least 119,000 cases in 119 countries and regions, with nearly 4300 recorded deaths and more than 66,000 recovered patients.
 
The RACGP has more information on coronavirus available on its website.
 
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Dr Avgenia Nisman   12/03/2020 11:11:09 AM

We have to open more phone communication services
patient with high temperature can call and referral for coronavirus
send to pathology
avoid direct contact
king regards
Dr. A. Nisman


Dr Esperanza Antonia Jimenez De Rodriguez   12/03/2020 12:26:37 PM

I would like to know, what type of support The DEPUTISING MEDICAL SERVICES(Doctors) are going to have given that we visit nursing homes and people's houses???? I have not heard about it.


Dr Esperanza Antonia Jimenez De Rodriguez   12/03/2020 12:30:15 PM

All activities where people are going to be conglomerated like sport events, concerts etc should be cancelled at this stage as a preventive measure.


Dr Viviane Sarah Leventhal   12/03/2020 1:09:32 PM

THANK YOU - IT WAS TIME THAT BOTH PRIMARY CARE & PATIENTS WERE CATERED FOR TO THE NEED THAT THEIR POSITION REQUIRES & CRIED FOR SO LONG ! THANKS TO ALL WHO CONTRIBUTED TO THESE NEW SOLUTIONS - BUT ESPECIALLY DR TONY BARTONE AMA PRESIDENT WHO HAS LED THE WAY & SINCE LAST NOVEMBER ON THE NATIONAL PRESS CLUB WHEN HE MADE CLEAR THAT MEDICAL SERVICES WERE NOT MEETING THE NEEDS OF THE POPULATION - THAT INNOVATIVE SOLUTIONS & OVERHAUL WERE NEEDED & FOR STAKE HOLDERS TO WORK TOGETHER . IT HAS TAKEN THE THREAT OF A GLOBAL ENDEMIC ( DECLARED TODAY ) TO MOVE THOSE IN CONTROL OF POWER & PURSE TO SOLUTIONS THAT WILL WORK AT LAST ! THANK GOD !!! SO PERHAPS THIS : "ILL WIND OF CO-VID 19 " HAS BLOWN SOME /MANY ( THE COUNTRY ; PATIENTS ;MEDICINE INTEGRATING WITH EMERGENCY SERVICES AS WELL AS GENERAL PRACTICE BEING RECOGNISED & GIVEN THE SUPPORT IT NEEDS .NOT TO MENTION RESEARCH AS WHAT TREATMENTS WORK .


Dr Irandani Anandi Ranasinghe-Markus   12/03/2020 3:29:21 PM

Is the government also going to allow us GPs who may end up having to isolate ourselves in case of exposure in the line of duty - to practice from their isolation point via Telehealth consults? If so will that be a different item number?