Doctors warn that due to lack of government support, the costs of running a general practice are becoming unaffordable.
Federal Health Minister Mark Butler says a “comprehensive reform” of Medicare is needed to keep local clinics viable.
Butler thinks the problem is that Medicare rebates are frozen or may increase slightly.
“There’s no doubt that the reduction, the six-year freeze on Medicare rebates under the previous administration, has put tremendous financial pressure on general practice, especially, and on the Medicare system as a whole,” he told ABC.
“But there are some broader structural issues here.”
The minister is working with medical and patient groups to investigate Medicare issues, and a final report is expected to be released in the coming weeks, with funds flowing into the federal budget.
He warns that the population is aging with more complex chronic diseases.
“Frankly, I think general practice is in the worst shape it’s been in Medicare’s 40-year history,” Butler said.
“We are not orphans. We see this across the developed world, but here in Australia we have some specific challenges to solve as a new government.”
He wants local doctors to work closely with nurses, relevant medical professionals and pharmacists.
“The system is just not designed to allow them to do that,” Butler said.
The minister also said that digital connectivity between primary care, hospitals, elderly and disabled care is “not perfect”.
Fewer medical graduates than ever are opting for general practice, in part due to significant workforce issues.
Butler said less than 14% of graduates have chosen a career in the field, down from about half of those who dropped out of college.
“If you think you have a problem looking at GP now, just think that you can’t turn these numbers around in five, 10, 15 years.
General practice workforce issues form part of the report on Medicare and are discussed in national cabinets.
Health issues are expected to take center stage at the national cabinet reunion in February, with the prime ministers of Victoria and NSW proposing their own policy plans to ease the pressure on hospitals. .
Butler said the federal government has already invested in strengthening Medicare, supporting local general practitioners and providing emergency care centers to reduce the burden on hospitals.
“But I don’t think there is more to be done,” he said.
The minister said a coordinated effort from the Commonwealth is needed in consultation with the sector and states.
“[The state]has a direct interest in restructuring general practice for the benefit of the community,” Butler said.
“But frankly, if the general practice system is in good shape, it is also for the viability and sustainability of a hospital system that is under pressure from presentations that can be adequately addressed in the community.”
https://www.perthnow.com.au/news/health/general-practice-worst-shape-in-40-years-c-9480214 General practice ‘worst form’ in 40 years