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AMA Victoria slams Labor’s plan to fund Super Pharmacies. The Government should support after-hours GP clinics, not late night chemists.

Thursday 27 November

Governments and political parties must support general practice. AMA Victoria slams unsubstantiated policies which direct funding away from general practice and towards ill-equipped and insufficient alternatives: pharmacists and nurses.

“The reason why these substitutes are cheaper than general practice is because they are not trained to practise medicine. If the Labor Party wants to improve access to after-hours medical services – then they should fund the expansion of after-hours GP clinics. It is that simple,” President of AMA Victoria, Dr Tony Bartone said today.

Labor’s proposal will only increase the number of patients referred to emergency departments.

“The data does not lie, it is far cheaper to treat patients in general practice than in hospital. Every dollar taken away from general practice usually results in more patients ending up in hospital.

“There is no denying that nurses, pharmacists and all other Allied Health workers play an important role in the health system – but when it comes to medical treatment, pharmacists and nurses can not be elevated above the importance of a family doctor,” Dr Bartone said.

Labor has stated that “under the plan, nurses will provide face to face advice on symptoms in the same way as the Nurse-On-Call service does over the phone.” However much of the research on Nurse-on-Call programs has challenged their effectiveness. Two academic studies found that:

  • “HealthDirct has a limited capacity to influence ED utilization.” [1]
  •  “Healthline had little effect on overall ED census and appeared to refer patients with similar acuity to the general ED census. It decreased the workload for ED nursing staff charged with answering advice calls.” [2]

Furthermore, we wish to make the point that AMA Victoria is an independent oragnsiation, with no political affiliations. AMA Victoria is willing to work with Governments, but we do not work for them. As the peak body for doctors, we consult and liaise with Governments to ensure that the Victorian health system improves. It is disappointing that Labor is making health policy announcements which have a direct impact on patients’ access to medical services, and yet they do not consult peak medical groups. This is evident in their plans for:

  • The Doctors in Schools Program
  • The Late-night Super Pharmacists with nurses

“To us, this all seems like policy on the run,” Dr Bartone said.


[1]. Sprivulis P, Carey M, Rouse I. “Compliance with advice and appropriateness of emergency presentation following contact with the HealthDirect telephone triage service”. Emerg Med Australasia.  February 2004.
[2] Graber DJ, Ardagh MW, O'Donovan P, St George, “A telephone advice line does not decrease the number of presentations to Christchurch Emergency Department, but does decrease the number of phone callers seeking advice.”, New Zealand Medical  Journal. July 2003.

Media contact
Felcity Ryan - 0437 450 506

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