The Royal Australian College of General Practitioners (RACGP) is warning that decisions on patient referrals should be up to qualified doctors.
It comes following details of a leaked email from SA Health to surgeons suggesting they “say no” to GPs referring older patients or people or who have multiple medical conditions.
Acting RACGP President Associate Professor Ayman Shenouda saidin newsGP today that GPs are more than capable of managing the care of older patients, particularly those with complex comorbidities, and that public servants with no clinical experience should not be second guessing GPs.
“GPs have the skills and knowledge to analyse and manage the vast majority of conditions our patients face. We do this every day,” Associate Professor Shenouda said.
“Having worked in aged care for many years, I know how complex and difficult some of these decisions can be. But I also know no one is better placed to help patients navigate their own healthcare than their long-term family doctor.
“We know our patients better than any other health professional and should be trusted to help them make choices that represent the high quality care Australians expect from their GP.”
Associate Professor Shenouda said if SA Health is struggling to provide enough resources to meet patient demand in its hospital wards, the State Government should consider investing more in primary care.
“General practice is the cornerstone of Australia’s healthcare system. It is also the most cost-effective part of our healthcare system, but unfortunately it continues to be taken for granted by governments,’ he said.
“The RACGP has been working for years to increase the access to and affordability of general practice for Australian patients in order to avoid overcrowding and long wait lists in our expensive hospital system.
“Unfortunately, pointing out that the typical $37.60 Medicare rebate is dwarfed by the average $250 spend on each visit to the ED doesn’t attract the same headlines as a multimillion dollar hospital upgrade.’
Aside from a larger investment in primary care, Associate Professor Shenouda suggested greater collaboration between medical teams would result in a more patient-centred model.
“Making complex decision related to medication, surgical intervention, rehabilitation and functionality, combined with broader family decision-making requirements, needs a really good team,’ the Acting President said.
“These teams should be supported by a financial model that can allocate time for multidisciplinary case conferences.”