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Labor’s “Doctors in Schools” program will not work. AMA Vic suggests 13 other primary health initiatives that should be pursued

Tuesday 25 November 2014

The Victorian Labor Party’s $46.2m plan for GPs to treat adolescents in disadvantages schools will not work in its current form.

AMA Victoria was not consulted on this GP program, and Labor has confirmed that nor was the RACGP. Health policies made without proper consultation with medical bodies rarely succeed.

Labor has stated that, under this proposed program, school students will be bulk billed. However, this may not be possible if the Federal Government’s $7 GP co-payment comes into effect. Under the co-payment proposal, those under the age of 16 will be required to pay the $7 co-payment 10 times before they’re eligible for bulk billing. All matters relating to MBS rebates and GP PiP payments are determined by the Federal Government.

While AMA Victoria is pleased to see political parties recognise the importance of primary care, AMA Victoria considers there to be far greater need for the following well planned and coordinated primary care initiatives:

  1. For the State Government to reinstate and fund the now abolished Prevocational General Practice Placements Program (PGPPP), which is an important training pipeline for junior doctors hoping to specialise in general practice. We call on Labor to match the Liberal’s just-announced $6.8m commitment to do this.
  2. Alcohol harm minimisation measures – including undertaking a review of what has been a proliferation of alcohol licenses and to determine its correlation with alcohol-related injuries and dependence. The Australasian College of Emergency Medicine undertook a snapshot survey last December of 92 emergency departments at 2am on a Saturday morning. It revealed that 1 out of 7 patients attended an ED as a result of the harmful use of alcohol; in some hot spots as many as 1 in 3 were alcohol related1.
  3. Introducing tobacco licenses, which will provide policy makers with insight into which areas have high smoking rates and thus where targeted quit campaigns are needed.
  4. A commitment to ban smoking in all outdoor dining areas, with no exemptions (this includes Crown Casino).
  5. Greater funding towards awareness and screening for pre-diabetes.
  6. Measures to reduce obesity and overweight, including a thorough plan to halt rising rates childhood obesity.
  7. Promotion of physical activity – including the need for physical education / sport to be compulsory on school curricula.
  8. Increasing funding towards mental health services, especially CAT teams.
  9. Implementing real-time prescription monitoring to stop the misuse of pharmaceutical medications. The number of prescription overdose fatalities is higher than the state’s road toll.2 We call on Labor to match the Liberal’s $6.98m commitment to do this.
  10. Banning alcohol advertising on all general supermarket receipts / shopper dockets. Research shows that the more a child is exposed to alcohol marketing, the earlier they will initiate drinking and will drink more in the long term.3
  11. Finally publish outpatient waiting list and continuing to lower elective surgery wait times. Patients waiting for surgery regularly see GPs for pain treatment and monitoring.
  12. Ensuring that doctors continue to treat patients rather than introducing “task substitution” - where a less-qualified health practitioner performs medical tasks instead of a doctor. This budgetary measure does not benefit patient care.
  13. Increase ICT funding for hospital-GP communications. At present, GPs are “data dumped” with patient files and their discharge summaries. These documents cannot be searched for keywords, such as blood test results; instead GPs need to view every page for the relevant information. Some patient files can be 200 pages long. Outpatient appointments and discharge summaries are still being faxed.

“AMA Victoria views these primary care initiatives to be of the upmost importance. We are more than willing to discus the health needs of the community with the political parties, as nothing good comes from policy on the run,” Dr Tony Bartone, President of AMA Victoria, said today.

1 Australasian College of Emergency Medicine, “If your drinking puts you in an Emergency Department you’re a ‘Bloody Idiot’ - Up to one in three attendances to Emergency Departments are alcohol related”, 18 December 2013.

2 Coroners Court of Victoria, Coronial data on Victorian deaths involving acute drug toxicity, 6 May 2013.

3 Cancer Council Victoria, “New research: AFL/NRL broadcasts one long booze ad with a bit of sport”, 28 April 2013.

Media contact

Felicity Ryan
Australian Medical Association Victoria
Mobile: 0437 450 506

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