It has been heartening to see the huge response from general practices to the Department of Health’s recent Expression of Interest to participate in the COVID-19 Vaccination Roll-Out. Over 5,400 general practices, which is approximately 80% of accredited practices, have submitted an EOI.
I know this has required a leap of faith, with many details still to be finalised and communicated, and I congratulate you for being willing to take this step. It demonstrates the priority you give to patient care.
The AMA has been tirelessly working over the last few months to ensure that general practice would have a central role in the COVID-19 Vaccination roll-out. We are at the front line for patient care and the trusted relationship GPs have with our patients is fundamental to the care we provide, particularly when it comes to vaccinations.
GPs are the majority provider of vaccinations in this country. We are a trusted source of immunisation information; we know our patients’ medical histories and can triage them according to priority criteria and can provide advice targeted specifically to their circumstances. We provide medically supervised and best practice vaccination services involving a team of medical practitioners and appropriately qualified practice nurses. We also have established recall processes to ensure vaccinations are completed and immunisation coverage is maximised.
The AMA has worked collaboratively with the Royal Australian College of General Practice to improve on the funding package originally offered by the Government to ensure general practice involvement is supported. We secured high bulk billing incentives, extra support through the practice incentive program and the availability of after hour’s items. We have ensured that the relevant MBS items operate like, for and on behalf items so that GPs can delegate some or all aspects of the service to appropriately qualified members of the practice team.
There is still much work to be done to make sure the vaccine roll out is successful and general practice is engaged and practically supported to contribute to the mammoth task of vaccinating an entire population over coming months.
Retail pharmacy has seen the COVID-19 vaccination program as an opportunity to intrude once again on the traditional role of general practice. While the Government has flagged the involvement of pharmacy later in the roll out, I doubt it appreciated the enthusiasm with which general practice would respond to its EOI. This has served only to reinforce the central role of general practice in our primary care system and once again highlight just how much we care for our patients.