Australian GPs have called for Australian politicians to recognise the growing demand and need for patients to spend more time with their GP and increase the patient Medicare rebate for consultations longer than 20 minutes.
President of the Royal Australian College of General Practitioners, Dr Harry Nespolon has called on all sides of politics to commit to addressing long standing issues with Medicare funding to ensure that patients are supported and encouraged to spend the necessary time with their GP.
“When my patient walks in the door, I want to make sure that no-one has their eye on the clock and that we can focus on what my patient needs,” Dr Nespolon said.
“This must urgently change, so that we can keep our patients healthy.
The current Medicare rebate structure does not adequately support the complexity or comprehensiveness of care needed by patients. The value of a patient’s rebate decreases significantly as they spend more time with their GP, effectively penalising patients who require longer consultations due to complex conditions.
“The current structure of patient rebates has created a system that negatively impacts on GPs offering long appointment times. Patients with complex conditions are less supported by Medicare when they visit their GP, compared to those who only need smaller amounts of time.
“GPs who do offer longer consultations need to increase their fees to ensure that they can cover the costs of providing care where Medicare falls short.
“Ironically, it is often those patients who need longer consultations that cannot afford to pay more for their care.
“If a patient is out of work because of a complex health issue, and can’t afford additional healthcare costs – what are they expected to do? There is simply just not enough support provided through Medicare to support these patients.
“As a result, these patients often delay seeking the healthcare they need, meaning they take longer to recover and are prevented from actively participating society for longer.
“We need to see all sides of politics commit to increase funding for longer consultations by at least 18.5%, otherwise I am fearful general practice will not be able to keep delivering the healthcare Australia deserves.”