Australian Medical Association president Dr Tony Bartone has finished in the role and his successor will be elected today.
Australian Medical Association president Dr Tony Bartone has finished in the role and his successor will be elected today.

New plan to save Aussie doctors and how it affect you

Doctors would be paid more for consultations and patients would be encouraged to sign up to a single GP practice, under a plan to save the industry.

Australian Medical Association president Dr Tony Bartone outlined the strategy on his final day in the job, also calling for funding for general practice to increase by 30 per cent.

GPs caring for people with chronic diseases and mental illnesses would also be incentivised and there would be higher Medicare rebates for those treating patients in aged care homes.

The proposal identified mental health as the number one reason patients see their GP and called for government-funded mental health nurses in every practice.

General practice has become the poor cousin of medicine - incomes are in decline with Medicare rebates rising by less than inflation for decades. For the five years, to 2019 they were frozen entirely.

Competitive pressure means more than eight in 10 GP services are bulk billed with doctors accepting just over $38 for each service. Plumbers, physiotherapists and dentists all earn more than many GPs in an hour.

Australian Medical Association president Dr Tony Bartone, left, has finished up in the role.
Australian Medical Association president Dr Tony Bartone, left, has finished up in the role.

Medical graduates are turning away from underpaid general practice as the workforce ages and there are now more specialists than GPs in the health system.

It means Australia has to import 2000 foreign-trained doctors a year to keep our medical system afloat.

Government spending on GP services had fallen to $391 per person per year, down from $395 in 2017-2018, Dr Bartone said.

"The Australian population is growing, ageing, and developing more complex health needs as chronic disease and mental ill-health continue to increase. General practice funding models must change to meet the needs of the community," he said.

The 10-year-reform plan said for every $1 invested in general practice, the government could save $13 elsewhere in the health system by reducing hospital, ambulance and other costs.

Under the current system the more time a GP spends with a patient, the less that time is valued financially, with the Medicare rebate system encouraging six minute consultations.

The AMA wants the timeline for the standard six to 20 minute medical consultation expanded and the Medicare rebate increased.

 

Plumbers, physiotherapists and dentists all earn more than many GPs in an hour. Picture: iStock
Plumbers, physiotherapists and dentists all earn more than many GPs in an hour. Picture: iStock

To ensure that patients receive wrap around co-ordinated care the AMA wants patients to enrol with a single GP practice to receive most of their medical care.

Under this system, GPs would be given block funding grants to cover the extra costs associated with paperwork and co-ordinated care on top of the Medicare rebates they receive for each consultation.

The reforms would cost billions of dollars and the AMA is calling for Federal Government spending on general practice services to be increased to at least a mandated 16 per cent of total health spending.

When he gained the presidency in May 2018, Dr Bartone said general practice reform was one of his key objectives.

The job of progressing the reform strategy will now fall to his successor to be elected on Sunday.

Brisbane thoracic and sleep physician Dr Chris Zappala and Perth-based orthopaedic surgeon Dr Omar Khorshid are vying for the top job.


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