Vulnerable communities disadvantaged by health funding packing

Some of the most vulnerable Australians, including those who live in rural and remote communities, will miss out on access to primary care despite the COVID-19 funding package announced yesterday by the Minister for Health, Greg Hunt.

“We welcome the fact this support will make it easier for those living in the city or who are already cared for by a general practice to receive care, particularly via telehealth,” Australian College of Nursing CEO, Adjunct Professor Kylie Ward FACN said.

“Unfortunately, this package is focused on traditional delivery of health care, which means funding is nearly completely directed at general practices, overlooking the fact there are many individuals, towns and communities who do not have access to a general practice.

“As a minimum, ACN had hoped to at least see telehealth item numbers available directly to the nurses who are providing care within people’s homes where they should be remaining to promote self-isolation and social distancing. If the nurse isn’t connected to a GP practice they are disadvantaged and so is their patient.”

Nurses work across every health care setting. In terms of delivery of primary care, this can include community-controlled health services, community clinics, in-home care, alcohol and other drugs (AOD) services, and mental health services.

“The real solution as we try to protect all Australians during this pandemic is for nurses to have access to Medicare Provider Numbers and funding the care nurses provide as Medicare services. This shouldn’t be as challenging as this is.” Adjunct Professor Ward argued.

Last week, ACN called on the Commonwealth to either immediately implement all recommendations of the Medicare Review Taskforce – Nurse Practitioner Reference Group Report or provide Nurse Practitioners with access to the same Medicare item numbers as general practitioners and give all Registered Nurses access to Medicare Provider Numbers and enable them to provide Medicare funded health care consultations.

“I am exceptionally disappointed an opportunity to ensure no Australian gets left behind has once again been lost,” Adjunct Professor Ward said.

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