The Royal Australian College of General Practitioners (RACGP) has today strengthened its calls for the Federal Government to introduce a time-limited Medicare rebate for telehealth consultations to support GPs in helping potential COVID-19 patients.
The RACGP has also welcomed the government’s announcement this morning that it will increase its funding contribution to 50% of every COVID-19-related healthcare item inside and outside of hospitals, in a new agreement with the states. Telehealth items for primary care are reportedly still under consideration.
The RACGP has been consistently calling for the government to introduce a time-limited Medicare rebate for general practice telephone or telehealth consultations to support GPs at a practice level in managing possible COVID-19 patients remotely.
RACGP President Dr Harry Nespolon said the time to introduce a temporary COVID-19 telehealth item number was now.
“I have had many discussions with the government about what GPs need to deal with COVID-19 – the critical need for a Medicare rebate for telehealth consultations is one of our top priorities. This is essential to support safe and appropriate care for patients with suspected COVID-19, patients at the practice, and GPs providing care. Without it, general practice simply won’t have the support required to deliver these critical services.
“Central hotline numbers are all well and good, but many, if not most, patients will still pick up the phone and call their local GP in the first instance.
“What we need is a model that means GPs can help a whole lot more patients, and that will help to protect patients, GPs and other staff at practices, and allow for home quarantining.
“GPs are a fundamental part of Australia’s frontline defence against COVID-19, and it’s essential that we have the support we need to continue providing safe and high quality patient care.
“I have long been saying that GPs need to be central to government planning processes for this outbreak – we are out there on the frontline, so we need to be front and centre in these discussions.
“While we welcome the government engaging with us now and recognise the support they have given GPs so far, including releasing face masks from our medical stockpile, more is needed.
“We need to take COVID-19 seriously. This is why it’s essential that general practice gets the support and resources it needs to ensure we have the best possible frontline defence against this virus. Continued support from the government is vital in the weeks and months ahead.”
RACGP President Dr Harry Nespolon is available for interview.