The AMA met yesterday with the office of Minister for Ageing, Senator Santo Santoro, to discuss the issue of GPs attending aged care facilities, as set out in the AMA's Federal Budget Submission 2007-08.
The current structure of the Medicare Benefits Schedule (MBS) makes it very difficult for GPs to provide ongoing care to residents of aged care facilities.
AMA President, Dr Mukesh Haikerwal, said today the number of general practitioners able to visit residential aged care facilities and provide services to residents is decreasing.
'As Australia's population ages and suffers increasing levels of more complex and chronic illnesses, it's becoming even more important to ensure that residents of aged care facilities are not disadvantaged,' Dr Haikerwal said.
'Older Australians need and deserve the best health care available. They must be able to access the services of a GP as and when the need arises.'
Currently, only about 16 per cent of GPs are able to visit aged care facilities on a regular basis.
'We've asked the Government to restructure the relevant sections of the MBS to ensure residents of aged care facilities have ready access to GPs,' Dr Haikerwal said.
'The restructure should allow general practice nurses to assist GPs in providing care.
'The MBS should pay a patient rebate for each individual service provided - as it does for patients who are able to visit their doctor in his or her surgery.'
The AMA's proposal would encourage the creation of a team-based care environment in which general practice nurses and GPs work together to provide comprehensive health care to residents of aged care facilities.
'We believe these few simple changes will ensure older Australians will not have to suffer sub-standard access to quality health care, simply because they live in an aged care facility,' Dr Haikerwal said.