Tenders open for demand-driven respiratory clinics

Jolyon Attwooll

11/01/2023 4:10:09 PM

As permanent GP-led clinics are phased out, a new arrangement is set to begin in March with clinics to be ‘activated as required’.

COVID-19 respiratory clinic
GP-led respiratory clinics around the country were an important part of the pandemic response. (Image: AAP)

Clinics are being invited to apply for a place on a new GP-led Respiratory Clinic Panel, which will be used in the event of a further COVID-19 wave or other respiratory emergencies.
Tenders opened this month for the panel, which is to consist of 150 primary care practices and will come into force from March.
When activated, participating clinics will be able to use a new bulk-billed MBS item for each respiratory consultation and will also be eligible for Practice Incentive Payments.
According to details released by the Department of Health and Aged Care (DoH), clinics that take part in the panel will be able to continue usual care when activated.
Previous GP-led respiratory clinics are eligible to apply for the tender if they meet the criteria.
It is the latest step in a Federal Government strategy to manage COVID-19 in a similar way to other respiratory viruses.
plan released last month outlined how Australia will shift its approach.
It stated that the GP-led respiratory clinics introduced in March 2020 would cease to be permanent fixtures, and a new system would mean they will go to being ‘activated as required’.
As well as the change in respiratory clinics, the plan outlined other changes in approach including the phasing-out of PCR testing for surveillance and reduced access to the National Medical Stockpile (NMS).
The plan stated an intent to move away from ‘COVID exceptionalism and bespoke arrangements’ but advised that disease-specific safeguards would remain.
In an article published in the Australian Journal of General Practice last year, Chief Medical Officer Professor Paul Kelly and the DoH’s Dr Lucas de Toca praised the GP-led respiratory clinics as part of the country’s successful pandemic response.
Funding for the original clinics was extended until the end of last year.
Tender documents show the panel is due to run until the end of June 2026 under the arrangement.
They also state the clinics ‘may be activated in response to an emergency individually, regionally or as a whole in the event that the COVID-19 epidemiology worsens or there is a significant respiratory outbreak of another disease that creates significant strain on the health system’.
An MBS item claimable at $110 (bulk billed) would be offered for each respiratory assessment.
A Practice Incentive Payment (PIP) of up to $12,500 is available every three months per participating clinic to cover extra operating costs when activated, including longer opening hours and increased infection, prevention and control measures.
Applications need be lodged by 2.00 pm (AEDT) on 2 February.
Full details are available on the AusTender website (registration required).  
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COVID-19 GP-led respiratory clinics

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