Doctors question super-clinic effects
From Health cover services provided would vary depending on local needs, said a spokesman for opposition health spokeswoman Nicola Roxon. There is no guarantee the clinics would provide afterhours care or diagnostic or pharmacy services.
‘‘ We will undertake extensive consultation with local communities about what they want and make sure that services are tailored to local needs,’’ the spokesman said.
Australian Medical Association president Rosanna Capolingua said the plan provided no real incentives for doctors to move to rural areas. ‘‘ We also have concerns that that super-clinics in larger regional areas would tempt doctors away from smaller country towns, leaving them without doctors and without any hope of attracting new doctors.
‘‘ Another big problem is that the GP superclinics will be a closed shop for doctors who will exclusively bulk-bill patients. There is also an over-estimation of mobile medical workforce numbers, and an underestimation of the costs of establishing and running a new medical practice.’’
However Tim Woodruff, president of the Doctors Reform Society, says the funding model should be reversed so that money was allocated to an area of need, rather than providing financial incentives to doctors.
‘‘ Money goes to doctors, not to areas of need. We and the Australian Healthcare Reform Alliance instead suggest that pooled funding should be allocated to regions to spend appropriately.
‘‘ Then they will have a financial incentive to attract staff, and the right infrastructure and do all of the things that need to be done. The current system not only discourages doctors from going to the country, it encourages people to stay in the city.’’
The Australian General Practice Network, however, backed the proposal, claiming the clinics would reduce pressure on public hospitals. ‘‘ GP super-clinics allow for a holistic approach to keeping the community healthier,’’ AGPN ceo Kate Carnell said. ‘‘ We know that a practice nurse explaining better asthma management to the GP’s patient, or having a diabetes educator in the clinic, sees improved patient outcomes and goes along way in keeping people out of hospital.’’
According to and Hospitals the Australian Healthcare Association, more than 500,000 Australians every year go to hospital for health problems that could have been prevented or treated in the community.
‘‘ This makes no economic sense,’’ AHHA executive director Prue Power said. ‘‘ It puts unnecessary pressure on out public hospital system and is a waste of our scarce health resources. Providing GPs with the support of practice nurses, practice managers and allied health professionals will help them deliver better health care, and in particular enable them to focus on preventative health and chronic disease management.’’
Federal Health Minister Tony Abbott said the Howard Government was already providing funding for GPs to extend the services they provide. ‘‘ Since 2004, the Howard Government’s Round the Clock Medicare program has provided funding support to over 160 organisations nationally to provide afterhours primary medical care services, and increased Medicare rebates for after-hour GP attendances.’’
The $106 million program offers subsidies of up to $200,000 per year for up to three years for new or recently established afterhours GP services.
Critical: AMA president Rosanna Capolingua fears super-clinics will disadvantage small towns, already poorly serviced