The impact of Australia’s first COVID-19 lockdown, mandated bulk billing of new telehealth MBS item numbers and the temporary decrease in patient presentations resulted in a more immediate concern over viability of practices in April 2020. That concern remains in 2021, but its immediacy has abated.
RACGP members reported that COVID-19 has placed additional financial pressure on practices. This includes increased overheads relating to providing telehealth services (additional administrative time, higher phone bills, the cost of infrastructure upgrades, etc), mandated bulk billing of COVID-19 MBS items, and increased costs of PPE, such as masks and gloves.
Providing COVID-19 vaccination services incurs additional costs, such as purchasing additional vaccine fridges, website upgrades, battery backups, increased staff costs to provide vaccines after hours, cover for sick or quarantining staff, and the need to respond to increased patient phone calls. Some practices have had to temporarily close due to COVID-19 exposure.