Untie the Hands That Help: Make Medicare Strong. Quality Health Care for Australians.
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Medicare has not had a boost in the rebates it provides patients in decades.
An ABC article sheds light on the rising cost of providing care which is borne by patients, doctors and Medical Practices. The graph depicted in this article is astounding: Out of Pocket costs outstripping CPI and worsening.
GPs and patients are absorbing the cost of providing health care and this is not sustainable. If you want to be heard and receive better care at the doctors support General Practice. Our politicians achieve more headlines announcing funding for other sectors within health but ignore a central deficit in supporting the backbone of our Health system which is becoming the weakest link.
First do no harm: well we doctors do some harm everytime we ask a patient to defer a problem until next time, or ask them to return a 2nd or 3rd time because 10, 15 minute appointments which are recommended by Medicare do not allow us to hear a problem. We miss out on opportunities when we cannot attend training to upskill because our income is tied to face to face care and not to education. We are punished for listening and counselling as these require documentation which takes time that is not remunerated outside of face to face time with patients and little financial support is given for longer time taken with clients.
How can we bring science to the doctors rooms when Medicare has not changed to support evidence based medicine. All roads point to cost savings if early diagnosis, prevention is available locally at your corner GP but the government is blind in thinking it can substitute generalist care with funding diverted to other sectors within health- it may achieve bigger headlines- funding boost to mental health organisations, even cancer treatment and in-home support for the elderly, but we ignore the fact that our workforce is central to helping all these people in need of support and we have a lot to offer for multitude of diverse needs: mental health, disability support, domestic violence, alcohol and addiction, caring for the aged and children if we are supported to do so.
The public has lived through a time when it cannot even imagine what it would be like to not have to wait at the doctors who is rushed or under pressure, or be able to come to the doctor’s for addressing multiple issues at fewer appointments, or not have to weigh up whether they see a GP that charges a Gap fee for complex problems or to see a bulk-billing one. We need leadership but neither political parties will listen to GPs in the front line that this is not self interest but rather an investment in health for the future.
Preventative care requires 1. asking, 2. listening and 3. addressing and informing client concerns. Counselling requires knowledge of 4. science and its limitations and skilful communication. Then we must 5. document our interaction to avoid having medicare come and take our income away if we cannot justify that we have made the appropriate discussion. But this increases time spent by your GP by five fold with no increase in funding, particularly for care that is not face-to-face.
Mental Health is the reason that Australians see the GP roughly 60% of the time and yet when we 1.ask, 2.listen, 3.counsel 4.provide therapy 5.document, again we do so at a loss to the income we provide for our businesses, our staff and the medical practice we seek to maintain and support. We all know the difference between being listened to and ignored. The damage that can be done by minimising or not giving enough time to a friend, a coworker, a family member that is hurting emotionally. We should not be asking our doctors to turn away people with mental illness or that they sacrifice their financial situation in order to address a public need.
Doctors and Medical practices receive no Medicare rebate when they call you by phone, SMS or write letters to you as only face-to-face care attracts funding. This is an important part of current standard medical care and it saves you time and potentially lives if you can be notified when something important about your health arises. Currently automated IT systems that communicate between hospitals, blood testing laboratories and X-ray Radiology providers simply do not exist and doctors, nurses are carefully working to make try to reduce errors that might bring your health to harm when results are lost, misfiled or are not received. Again, Medicare does not fund for this work which is crucial to patient safety and most medical practices absorb this cost to some degree.
Medicare has not kept up with inflation let alone with contemporary medical practice. It’s time to stand up for what we want our consultations at the GPs to be more like. We want it to be available to everyone and it should not hurt the hip pocket of patients or the income of GPs.
If you want more from your visits to the GP, shorter waiting times, more time and better training for doctors, less out of expense costs at the doctors, then make your voice heard: sign this petition now to let our politicians know they need to reverse of decades of neglect to Medicare and bring General Practice funding into this century.
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