‘No minimum numbers’: GPs urged to use RACF flag-fall fee

Jolyon Attwooll

17/05/2023 2:51:23 PM

Take-up of recommended COVID-19 boosters in aged care is low, but officials hope a raised fee for in-reach visits will make a difference.

Elderly person being vaccinated against COVID
The number of aged care residents who are currently up to date with recommended COVID-19 boosters is low.

There are no minimum patient numbers to qualify for an increased flag-fall fee for in-reach vaccination in aged care facilities, the Department of Health and Aged Care (DoH) has emphasised.
With the take-up of recommended boosters currently sitting below 30% among eligible aged care residents, the Federal Government is encouraging GPs to help improve protection among the cohort.
The issue was raised in last week’s COVID-19 primary care webinar, and again highlighted by the Deputy Chief Medical Officer Professor Michael Kidd in a subsequent email update.
He noted that vaccinations in residential aged care and disability facilities are mostly given by primary care providers such as GPs and pharmacists.
‘We encourage COVID-19 vaccine providers to continue providing in-reach COVID-19 vaccinations to aged care and disability residents,’ Professor Kidd’s latest COVID-19 primary care update email states.
‘To support providers offering this service, the MBS flag-fall item 90005 has been increased to $118.15.’
The correspondence notes that while the item can be claimed only once per visit, it can be co-claimed with other COVID-19 MBS items, and that there is no minimum number of patients that need to be vaccinated for it to be claimed.
‘If there are residential aged care patients requiring vaccination, we encourage sites to go and vaccinate them, even if there is only a few or one patient needing vaccination,’ Professor Kidd wrote.
Last week, newsGP reported on the low number of eligible aged care residents who are currently up to date with recommended COVID-19 boosters.
The most recent COVID-19 vaccine rollout figures indicate that 28.8% of eligible residents have had their booster, four percentage points up from the previous week.
For Dr Anthony Marinucci, Chair of RACGP Specific Interests Aged Care, the message to increase vaccination rates makes sense.
‘I welcome this increased flag recently announced by the Federal Government, further establishing and supporting the important role GPs play in the delivery of COVID vaccination to those vulnerable people living in aged care facilities,’ he told newsGP.
‘I fully encourage all those GPs engaged in RACF visitation to offer these in-reach clinics, whether it be for one or many residents.’
The flag-fall fee has more than doubled from when it was first announced in 2021, when it stood at $56.75.
The latest snapshot of aged care facilities indicates there are 386 active outbreaks as of 11 May, with 1863 resident cases.
Professor Kidd said that visits can still occur with active cases present.
‘You can provide in-reach services even if there is an outbreak of COVID-19 or influenza at a home, you will just need to ensure you only vaccinate patients who are well,’ he wrote.
‘This provides a higher level of protection for patients who have not yet been infected.’
The Deputy Chief Medical Officer also emphasised the potential for COVID-19 and influenza vaccines to be co-administered, with the caveat that COVID-19 vaccination needs to be delivered free of charge.
‘Providers may wish to consider the risk/benefit to residents of providing both vaccines on the same day, particularly in a residential aged care facility, as it may be difficult for residents to have another opportunity for vaccination,’ his latest update reads.
Of the more than 20,000 COVID-19 deaths recorded in Australia since the start of the pandemic, more than a quarter have been registered within aged care facilities.
Professor Kidd described residents as the cohort ‘most at risk of COVID-19’, and said GPs interested in helping should contact their local Primary Health Network (PHN).
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aged care vaccination COVID-19 vaccination MBS 90005 RACF

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