National Cabinet responds to RACGP call for vaccine support

Matt Woodley

22/12/2021 3:46:38 PM

GPs are set to receive additional government support after concerns were raised about the increasing complexity of the rollout.

A person being vaccinated.
GPs will now receive an additional $10 per COVID vaccine dose administered. (Image: AAP)

General practice will receive a funding injection to help support the ongoing COVID-19 vaccine rollout, Prime Minister Scott Morrison has announced.
The decision, confirmed at today’s National Cabinet meeting, means GPs will now receive an additional $10 per dose administered.
‘I advised the premiers and chief ministers today that we’ll be increasing the payments to GPs and pharmacists,’ Prime Minister Morrison told reporters following the meeting.
‘We’ll be increasing them up by $10 a [dose] in addition to what they’re already getting now.
‘We think that’s important, particularly over the summer months, when normally, just like many other Australians, they’d be looking to take leave.’
National Cabinet did not move to further shorten booster interval from five months or re-introduce mask mandates, but is due to meet again in two weeks’ time.
Following the announcement, RACGP President Dr Karen Price told newsGP while any additional support is helpful, each of the more than 5400 general practices still involved in the vaccine rollout will need to determine whether the funding injection is enough for them to continue participating.
‘It is no secret that GPs have been under pressure throughout the pandemic, and particularly during 2021,’ she said.
‘I will always welcome more support for general practice, but we need to remember that many clinics are operating on wafer thin margins and some are actually losing money on the vaccine rollout.
‘Whether the additional funding will be enough for practices to at least break even as we enter this more complicated phase of the rollout remains to be seen. However, the college will continue to advocate for a level of support that protects patients and allows GPs to get on with what we do best – providing world class primary care.’
It is not known whether the new funding will be added to existing MBS item numbers GPs have access to when administering vaccines, or if it will be a part of the Practice Incentive Program (PIP).
Prior to the announcement, the RACGP had warned that the existing level of support was insufficient for general practices to administer booster vaccinations and the impending rollout in children aged 5–11, especially as many clinics had planned on scaling back activity over the Christmas break.
‘Without appropriate funding, it will be harder for practices to get the job done and make ends meet at the end of the day,’ Dr Price said. ‘And while GPs don’t get into this career for the money, our practices need to remain viable.
‘The last two years have been very challenging for many practices. They’ve been under pressure managing the pandemic, delivering our nation’s largest vaccine rollout, and managing ongoing care for patients.
‘On top of this, many practices are taking on even more because other vaccinators are pulling out of the rollout and some states are scaling back or closing their state vaccine hubs.
‘We need to throw everything we have at it, not try to get the job done with one hand tied behind our backs.’
While GPs have administered the majority of COVID vaccinations across the country, a recent decision by the Australian Technical Advisory Group on Immunisation (ATAGI) to shorten the window for booster shots to five months meant the number of eligible people doubled overnight to more than 4.1 million.
The reduced window is aimed at protecting people against the new Omicron variant of concern, which is more contagious and better able to evade existing antibodies – to the point where ‘worst case scenario’ modelling prepared by the Doherty Institute suggests Australia could be recording 200,000 cases per day by the end of next month.
However, GPs reported not having enough warning to properly plan for the change, especially as it occurred just before many practices reduced staffing over the summer break.
The COVID-19 vaccine rollout for children aged 5–11 is also due to begin on 10 January, which Dr Price described as a ‘mammoth task’ that will place even more strain on general practices, given the additional complexity associated with this cohort.
‘We need to vaccinate as many children as we can as quickly as we can to protect our community, particularly as we’re seeing rising cases of both the Omicron and Delta variants in Australia,’ she said.
‘[But] the problem we face with rolling out COVID-19 vaccines to children is that … children require more time and care, as well as space because their parents come with them, and this has to be factored in by practices planning vaccine clinics.
‘In an ideal world we would be able to vaccinate all children by the time the school year starts, because we know it has been a significant source of infections, and it’s disruptive for children when schools have to close.’
Despite the added complexity, Dr Price said GPs are best placed to administer these vaccinations – provided the proper supports are in place.
‘GPs do routine immunisations for children every day,’ she said.
‘We know it can be daunting for children, as well as parents, and we have the training and expertise to make the experience as comfortable as possible.
‘That’s why most parents naturally want to go to their GP for their child’s vaccine.’
There are currently 3.2 million doses of mRNA vaccines at primary care and state vaccination settings, with that number expected to increase to 4.8 million by Christmas.
The COVID-19 taskforce has said it is preparing to supply a peak of up to 12 million doses a month in January and February.
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Dr Daniel Thomas Byrne   23/12/2021 9:23:20 AM

Item 93666 added on for dose 3 only.

Dr Cyril Gabriel Fernandez   23/12/2021 10:35:26 AM

It is welcome to add $10 to the MBS item number rather than as PIP. PIP benefits the Practice but not the individual Practitioner on contract work

Rural GP   23/12/2021 11:50:50 AM

Extra $10 thanks.(token) But in NSW, we need government action.
First an unapologetic " let it rip", ( nom masks or QR codes) , withdraw contract tracing add inadequate testing facilities and then turn off vaccination centres. Also Then say: if your positive "call you GP" over Christmas,, Oh and their paper work for clearance is now your job too. Gp's have to sign to say the patient is no longer infefctious?
Can GP's at least , as a group, reject these medical clearance notices.