“We need more doctors in aged care”: Government urged to increase funding for GPs

GP

The Australian Medical Association (AMA) has urged the federal government to increase funding for GP visits to aged care homes to ensure care recipients can always access the medical care needed. 

The extra funding would make it easier for GPs to deliver care to those living in residential care, and has been prompted by AMA members reporting difficulties that deter doctors from visiting aged care facilities altogether. 

According to a press release from the AMA, the peak body for doctors, the main issues that have been causing barriers to providing the necessary care include:

  • incompatible IT systems;
  • lack of nursing staff to identify patients and assist GPs with clinical handovers;
  • no clinically equipped private examination rooms available;
  • lack of physical access with no parking, and the need for personalised swipe cards and access codes; and 
  • lack of adequate financial support for doctors’ visits.

“Instead we should be attracting more doctors into aged care by supporting them to take the time away from their busy practices and visit patients in nursing homes. That way GPs can continue their relationships with their elderly patients who move into aged care.” 

According to Dr Khorshid, most GPs bulk bill aged care patients, however, this process leaves the doctors out of pocket, as the current Medicare rebate does not cover the time they spend in care facilities, or what they call “non-contact time” – the time spent on a patient’s care outside of their consultation. 

According to a table provided by the AMA, the total minutes spent on non-contact time could reach up to 89 minutes, between travel to the facility, finding a staff member and the patient within the facility, discussing the patient’s medical history, and notifying family of any changes or updates to the patient’s medical care. 

These difficulties create barriers to doctors and mean they aren’t able to deliver the quality of care that older patients require. 

“We’ve estimated this to cost $145 million in 2021-22 and $643 million over four years to 2024-25 in our new modelling. It’s a relatively small ask when we’ve identified over $21 billion of savings that can be made in addressing preventable hospital admissions from aged care.”

Dr Chris Moy, the Vice President of the AMA and a GP who also works in aged care, said that the range of non-contact activities carried out by doctors to support aged care patients was extensive. 

“Additionally, incompatible IT systems often mean crucial patient information gets lost and that’s bad news for the older person. 

“It’s ridiculous to talk about innovative digital technologies when they don’t work for the patient and their doctor. 

“The My Health Record, My Aged Care, nursing home IT and GP clinical software all need to be able to talk to each other for the benefit of the patient and all involved in their care.” 

Dr Moy also went on to say that inadequate examination spaces makes it difficult to conduct consultations in private and in a way that preserves the patient’s dignity. He called for nursing homes to become equipped with purpose-built examination rooms, as the current setup often does not have space for private examinations. 

Dr Moy went on to say that these changes made an essential part of the required aged care updates, and would ensure that both visiting GPs and their patients would be able to provide and receive the top level care that is required. 

“We’ve identified a suite of needs for both the patient and GP in nursing home settings and if the Government is serious about reforming aged care, they should allocate resources to these areas. 

“All of this speaks to our call to put health care back into aged care by boosting the number of doctors and nurses in aged care, and ultimately improving the health of our precious but often most vulnerable members of our community residing in the aged care system.”

Do you support the AMA urging the government for funding to increase GP visits to aged care homes? Share your thoughts with us below.

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  1. As part of my role in Aged Care I have to ensure that each new resident has a GP to care for them in our facilities. It is becoming increasingly difficult,with a huge shortage of GP’s and no incentive to attract GP’s to work in Aged Care.
    I fully support the increased funding that is required to create a work space that enable our GP’s to care for our elderly in the way they deserve.

  2. Our organisation had been attempting for over 14 months to attract more GPs to one of our facilities. We provide dedicated parking, have RNs on every floor of 32 residents on morning and afternoon shifts, have an electronic clinical care management system with remote access, and electronic prescribing and charting. We even offered to additional payment from the organisation on top of what they could claim from Medicare. Our residents predominantly also have private health insurance. Despite that we could not attract a single doctor until a local retired GP decided he was bored and offered to help. All of our facilities have single rooms that are up to 40 squared metres so they can be seen in private. I think the view that a resident should be seen in a “clinic” setting in aged care is counter to the current paradigm that this is their home, not a medical centre or hospital. The article fails to acknowledge that supporting the elderly lacks the prestige that other types of medical work attracts, and perhaps that is a major consideration in doctors decision making.
    Happy to support increased payment for GPs to visit aged care.

  3. Absolutely support this, however it’s not all about money, we also need to provide appropriate GP registrar training for GPs or this workforce will never increase regardless of increased funds.

  4. I would actually like to see a permanent Doctor in Aged Care facilities or at least very close by, and available on call.
    This would cut down mileage, other expenses such as those listed in the article and most of all it would save precious time.
    This would also ensure Resident’s health issues are addressed promptly and reduce pain and suffering, possibly avoid death.
    When Mum had her last fall in ACF, the Aged Care Doctor could not attend because he was on his Sunday run…
    The Locum Doctor took well over an hour to attend and assess, the Ambulance eventually took Mum to Hospital and she died the following day…

  5. I couldn’t agree more however along with GPs, residential aged care requires many more care workers, registered and enrolled nurses, nurse practitioners, dieticians, speech pathologists, podiatrists, geriatricians, dementia specialists, cleaners and catering staff, CEOs/Boards with intimate aged care knowledge…if we are to truly deliver person centred care

  6. Mum has been in a Nursing Home for 18 months now. In total she has had 5 different doctors. All have given up visiting Aged Care Homes. We tried for ages to get her another Dr. we were lucky that the Nursing Home managed to secure all of these Drs for us, but were told, when the last one left, that it was our responsibility to find her another Dr. No matter how many surgeries we rang, we were told the Drs wouldn’t visit Nursing Homes or they were not taking on any more patients. We were at our wits end. Again, luckily for us another Dr decided he would take on 20 patients at the Home and we were able to have mum included in those 20. Otherwise, I don’t know what we would have done. Mum is 97 and bedridden and it would have been impossible to get her out to a Drs surgery. We live in Townsville. So yes, I whole heartedly support the AMA urging the Government for funding to increase GP visits to Aged Care Facilities.

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