18 March 2020

Medical deputising strained to tipping point, pleas to govt

Aged Care Policy

The GP Deputising Service Association (GPDSA) is warning COVID-19 is pushing its members to the point of collapse, a situation that could seriously effect the management capability of the crisis in the aged care sector. The President of the GPSDA, Dr Nathan Pinskier, wrote the letter below to the government today.

“Members of the GP Deputising Service Association representing Medical Deputising Services across Australia held a COVID-19 crisis teleconference today. All services reported that their doctors, their call centre staff and management teams were under immense pressure, as the weight of community reaction to the COVID-19 pandemic escalated. Ongoing service viability and difficulties were discussed, including the supply of PPE for doctors, doctors rapidly exiting the sector, and call centre systems at over capacity including the triaging of large numbers of COVID-19  at risk patients essentially as an unfunded community service.

Members were unanimous in affirming the crucial support that MDS can provide to the Health system, however it was also clear that services are either at or near a tipping point that will result in imminent closures or at the very least a severe degradation of service for the community. The most significant issue relates to deputising doctors considering ceasing work to avoid risk to themselves. Some MDS doctors are advising that they will no longer attend patients with respiratory symptoms, whether or not they are suspect or confirmed COVID-19 cases and some have indicated that they will no longer visit aged care facilities. In both scenarios this refusal is regardless of the provision of PPE, although it is clear that the supply of PPE to MDS doctors is completely inadequate. MDS members noted that they have a duty of care to their doctors and this included ensuring that MDS doctors were practicing in a safe and supported environment.

The GPDA urges immediate action by government to support its MDS doctors and call centres to allow the services to provide ongoing safe and coordinated care to the community at a time of unprecedented demand. This requires:

  1. The new MBS telehealth items now available for vulnerable groups to be immediately made available to MDS doctors as an extension, or the deputy of the Practice that has provided care for those patients in the previous 12 months.
  2. The MBS telehealth items to be expanded to enable universal access to all Australians.
  3. The removal of existing MBS time of practicing restrictions that limit many MDS doctors to practice only in the evenings and weekends. MDS doctors should be permitted to provide heath services in weekday daytime hours at the request of the regular practice or the regular aged care facility.
  4. The establishment of safe working environments and protocols in aged care facilities
  5. The provision of block funding to support the ongoing and unprecedented call and triage demand experienced by MDS call centres.

Members fear that if immediate action is not taken now, MDS call centres may not remain viable and MDS doctors will increasingly exit the sector and may not return.

The GPDA is available to discuss these urgent recommendations.”

Dr Nathan Pinskier President GDPA

[email protected]

0415 518 000

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