Government decisions on home visits overlook patient interests

Monday, December 18, 2017

‘Today’s decisions by the Federal Government to restrict use of MBS items for urgent after-hours care are all about bowing to the interests of certain doctor groups and neglecting patient interests’, says Alison Verhoeven, Chief Executive of the Australian Healthcare and Hospitals Association (AHHA).

‘Today’s decisions affect mainly after-hours care in major cities and large regional centres.

‘They will reduce access to home doctor visits by restricting access to full MBS rebates to specialist GPs who work predominantly during business hours.

‘After-hours deputising services provided by doctors with the same qualifications as you would find in a hospital emergency department will have their levels of Medicare rebate progressively reduced, which will potentially make such services financially unviable.

‘Meanwhile, current arrangements in rural areas will continue. The government is to be commended for this—but city people are just as entitled to after-hours home visits as people in regional areas.

‘The reality will be that city-dwellers will lose access to after-hours home visits because GPs who work predominantly during the day are mostly unwilling to also provide after-hours services. One survey puts the estimate at only 1 in 15 such doctors being willing to increase after hours services.

‘People with serious illnesses or disability being cared for at home will suffer greatly from this loss of access—and they are the people least likely to be able to afford any increase in out-of-pocket expenses and who would find it most difficult and most stressful to get to a hospital emergency department after hours.

‘The government is supposedly trying to keep people living at home rather than in institutions, and out of hospitals as much as possible—this is hardly a good way to go about that.

‘It is symptomatic of an uncoordinated health system that is focused on protecting “traditional” incomes and interests, while ignoring a changing world and healthcare landscape where consumers should be the primary focus.

‘We said as much in our Healthy people, healthy systems healthcare blueprint released earlier today, where we set out clear steps towards a nationally unified and regionally controlled health system that puts patients at its centre and has long-term sustainability.’

For more information on the AHHA, visit http://ahha.asn.au.

The Australian Healthcare and Hospitals Association is the national peak body for public and not-for-profit hospitals, and community and primary healthcare services.

Media enquiries:

Alison Verhoeven   
Chief Executive, Australian Healthcare and Hospitals Association   
0403 282 501