The Government's re-announcement of additional funding for the GP Panels Initiative will do nothing to improve health services for residents of aged care facilities.
Chair of the AMA Committee on Care of Older People, Dr Peter Ford, said today the Panels initiative has done very little to reduce the barriers GPs experience in accessing and providing medical services to these residents.
Dr Ford said it is curious that the Government would choose to fund the Panels, whose recommendations are not compulsory, authoritative, or representative of the whole aged care sector.
"The Panels initiative fails to address the majority of those barriers and will never have a significant impact on increasing the number of GP visits to residential aged care facilities," Dr Ford said.
"These barriers can be as simple as a lack of available car parking or easy access to clinical treatment rooms.
"Often they are more complex issues such as difficulty accessing and transferring patient information or inadequate Medicare Benefits Schedule (MBS) rebates for patients.
The Panels have done nothing about the ongoing lack of a reasonable MBS fee structure to remunerate GPs who provide services to residents in aged care facilities.
The AMA has been lobbying for an MBS item for GP services in residential aged care that acknowledges the significant amount of non face-to-face time involved in the provision of care, and which would allow for some work to be carried out by general practice nurses.
"The AMA supports multidisciplinary care provided by a GP led team of health practitioners," Dr Ford said.
"But an increase in funding to the Panels for allied health services will have only marginal benefit in attracting GPs, and these services need a GP as the central provider of care to have a positive impact.
"Further funding of the Panels is just throwing away much needed health dollars."