In The Media

X-rays and doctor visits to cost less as government prepares to lift the Medicare rebate freeze

X-RAYS and scans could become cheaper for patients in the May budget with the Turnbull Government under pressure to honour an election promise to raise the Medicare rebate for the tests. However, the move could affect patients’ access to after hours in home medical care with cutbacks in this area under consideration to pay for the change. An increase in rebates for scans will cost…

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Why male GPs are opting out of performing Pap smears.

More and more male general practitioners are opting out of performing Pap smears and inserting IUDs as the number of female GPs is on the rise. According to the West Australian, several Perth women raised concerns after they were advised that their regular male GP no longer did Pap smears and they should see a female doctor at the same practice instead. One woman said her clinic told her most female patients preferred…

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Adults missing out on free, life-saving vaccinations

Up to 3.8 million Australian adults are missing out on free vaccinations each year, putting themselves at risk of contracting life-threatening, yet preventable infections. The findings are according to a report published in the Medical Journal of Australia (MJA) today (March 27, 2017). The report, entitled Vaccine Myopia, coincides with the launch of the University of New South Wales Vaccine and Infection Research Lab (UNSW VIRL), Sydney…

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More male doctors are opting out of doing Pap smears

More male GPs are opting out of performing Pap smears or only doing them in the presence of a female colleague. Several Perth women have raised concerns after they were advised that their regular male GP no longer did Pap smears and they should see a female doctor at the same practice instead. One woman said her clinic told her most female patients preferred to…

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After-hours group hits back over crackdown threat

After-hours home-visit services will quit regional towns and cities – starting with Canberra – if the federal government adopts new workforce rules or alters Medicare item numbers to rein-in health spending.   The National Association of Medical Deputising Services (NAMDS) has lashed out ahead of the May federal budget, warning there could be a community backlash if the viability of after-hours services is eroded in regional…

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RACGP president hits back at claims that future doctors may not prepared to provide physical activity counselling

The University of Sydney and Exercise & Sports Science Australia (ESSA) collaborated to survey 17 of the 19 medical schools in Australia to assess how physical activity (PA) training is implemented across medical school curricula. The study found that almost half of all medical schools surveyed (42.9%) reporting the level of PA training was “insufficient” to prepare their students to provide physical activity counselling to their future…

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How staying healthy got so complicated — and how to make it simple in 2018

If you want to maintain good health, it’s easy to fall down a rabbit hole, trying to find the perfect lifestyle to have you looking good and living long. You try calorie counting then Atkins then Paleo then juice cleanses. If they don’t stick, you could cut out gluten or dairy or have a stab at a soup diet. If that’s not sustainable there’s always…

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RACGP sees new Medicare body as politics-free zone

The RACGP is calling for an independent Medicare Authority to take the politics out of healthcare decisions and stop deals being done “on the backs of GPs”. RACGP President Bastian Seidel said the proposed new body would incorporate the MBS Review and would make the review process continuous and permanent to maintain relevance. Dr Seidel said he was confident the landmark review, being overseen by…

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Debate over shifting drugs to OTC

The money saved by making drugs such as proton pump inhibitors and oral contraceptives available over the counter would not be worth the risk, leading Australian doctors say. Their comments follow a Canadian report showing $1 billion (AU$983 million) could be shaved off the health budget every year by making erectile dysfunction drugs, oral contraceptives and PPIs available OTC. As Australia’s economy and regulatory environment is quite…

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Medicare rebate freeze to be thawed

PATIENTS would pay less to see a doctor under plans to end the Medicare rebate freeze as the Turnbull Government moves to reform the nation’s growing $90 billion-a-year health budget. Health Minister Greg Hunt is understood to be working on a May Budget blueprint that aims to undo the unpopular 2013 freeze to the Medicare rebate for GP visits and specialist consultations, but also preserves…

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Malcolm Turnbull delivers ‘outright’ rejection of pension cuts plan

Prime minister takes to Twitter to deny reported plan to cut payments as health minister promises ‘rock solid’ commitment to Medicare in budget Malcolm Turnbull has ruled out pension cuts in the budget after a report that the government was considering cutting welfare for those receiving less than $20.02 a fortnight. It comes as the health minister, Greg Hunt, gave further signals on Sunday the government…

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Three medical experts agree modern medicine isn’t living up to expectation

The limitations of modern medicine are coming to light now more than ever before as an outdated system means patients are frequently left disappointed by a lack of diagnosis, experts say. Earlier this year Fairfax Media revealed the story of Courtney Martin, the young Canberra woman suffering from an undiagnosed condition. The 24-year-old has seen more than 30 doctors and none can work out what is…

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Crackdown looms for after-hours services

Federal Health Minister Greg Hunt has turned up the heat on after-hours home-doctor services, blaming “junior doctors and corporate firms” for a blow-out in urgent items costing taxpayers nearly $250 million in the past year.   The minister has pushed investigations into the sector since taking over the health portfolio from Sussan Ley in January, showing his alarm at the rapid rise in claims for urgent…

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Investigation: unregistered doctor at Melbourne cosmetic clinic

Australia’s health practitioner regulator is investigating another unregistered person claiming to be a doctor. The woman, Phoebe Pacheco, was working at a Melbourne cosmetic clinic for more than three years before she came to the attention of authorities. It was revealed last week that a Sydney man had been practicing as an unregistered doctor for a decade But authorities are trying to reassure the public…

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Junior doctors claim top rates for after-hours calls over routine illnesses

JUNIOR doctors making after-hours house calls are claiming lucrative “urgent” rates for attending children with runny noses and other routine illnesses. The cash grab has alarmed two doctors’ groups, which are warning patients to ask doctors for their qualifications. In just five years, the number of “urgent” after-hours payments has increased by 150 per cent. Almost $250 million has been drained from the Medicare Benefits Schedule…

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Self-poisoning among the elderly likely to become a “growing problem”: report

Concerns around over-prescribing of drugs, and deteriorating mental health among elderly Tasmanians, have been voiced by health groups. The comments follow a report predicting self-poisoning among older people will likely become a “growing problem” as the population ages. The Self-poisoning by older Australians: a cohort study report, published by the Medical Journal of Australia, found most self-poisoning was intentional. Opioids were most commonly associated with fatal self-poisoning among the elderly, the report found.  Royal…

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Patient advocates: a private affair

As health systems and treatment options grow ever more complex, a new kind of support role is becoming increasingly popular in the United States, UK and Europe – the private patient advocate. Overseas, private patient advocates have been a common part of patient-centred care since the mid-2000s. With just a handful of private advocates operating in Australia to date, their introduction raises many questions, and it…

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Are you a member of Australia’s underground GP college?

Australia has a virtual underground GP college or, if you like, a GP resistance movement. In terms of moving GPs into the 21st century of social digital engagement and learning, it might just be what the doctor ordered. “Where there is power, there is resistance,” says Michel Foucault in his seminal work on power and knowledge, Defacing Power. When we think of power in the GP…

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RACGP’s fighting words … but where’s the dog?

RACGP president Dr Bastian Seidel sent off a fiery missive this morning to members indicating that, despite his many meetings with the federal health minister in which the rebate freeze was discussed, he would not be “pushed to disclose the proceedings just in order to grab a cheap headline in the national news”. Just who is pushing Dr Seidel, and why, isn’t entirely clear. Dr…

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Call for website to compare doctors’ fees and services

Consumer body pushes for MySchool-style site after study finds some patients paying five times more than others to see a specialist Patients would be able to compare medical doctors’ prices and services on a MySchool-style website under a proposed transparency measure being pushed by the national healthcare consumer body. But the Australian Medical Association has criticised the plan as an “unwieldy” imposition on specialists. On…

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Canberra sees “lite” on rural GP training

The government is restoring a “lite” version of a popular prevocational general practice training scheme that it axed in 2014 as a waste of money.   Applications are open for rural clinical schools to pin down 240 intern placements  in rural general practice to be made available under the scheme, budgeted at $10 million a year, the government said.  “It is a step in the right direction,”…

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Huge variation in specialists’ fees spark concern

Some patients may be paying over five times more than others do in out-of-pocket costs for their first consultation with a specialist in Australia, prompting calls for greater transparency. An analysis of 2015 Medicare claims data also revealed that bulk-billing rates varied between location as well, with rates in the Northern Territory nearly twice as high as anywhere else. Haematology and medical oncology were the only…

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We are here to listen, says ALP

Labor Leader Bill Shorten has raised the bar for health policy debate, promising to map out long-term investment in preventive health and primary care in partnership with health and medical experts. Mr Shorten told 150 senior health professionals at Labor’s Health Summit in Canberra last week, he would use the current term of parliament to plan a future for healthcare beyond the demands of short-term…

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Welcome changes to aged-care services funding

Older Australians will have greater choice and control over care services to help them to live at home for longer in a major shake-up of provider rules.  The reforms feature “portable” funding, giving consumers the freedom to change providers – and take their funding with them – for services such as personal care, nursing and social support.  Aged Care Minister Ken Wyatt said the changes represented…

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On our selection: Colleges welcome change to trainee entry

In a what proved a popular move, Assistant Minister for Health, Dr David Gillespie, travelled to Tasmania at the end of last month to announce that his Government was handing responsibility for selecting trainees in General Practice to the two relevant colleges. From next year’s intake, potential GP trainees will apply directly to the Royal Australian College of General Practitioners (RACGP) or the Australian College of Rural and Remote…

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Caution urged over emergency doc app

A new app that promises to save patients a trip to, and a long wait in, the emergency department has prompted concern about fragmentation of care. My Emergency Dr, an app developed by Sydney Royal North Shore Hospital emergency physician Dr Justin Bowra, promises to give “every Australian urgent video access via your smartphone to an emergency specialist, wherever they live and whenever they call”.…

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Is your pharmacist giving you the right advice?

We put pharmacists to the test – what do they recommend for stress and does it work?  By Karina Bray Pharmacy mystery shoppers If you walk into any pharmacy in Australia you’re likely to be greeted by rows of shelves groaning with herbal remedies, vitamins and other alternative supplements for sale, as well as medicines. And behind every prescription dispensing counter you’ll find a pharmacist. Pharmacists…

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ser-pays emergency clinic opens today

Doctors behind the launch of a walk-in emergency clinic hope to provide almost immediate care for people with acute but non-life threatening conditions, reducing the burden on nearby emergency departments. Patients visiting the Walk-in Specialist Emergency clinic, located in northern Sydney, will pay a $200 fee that covers consultation with a senior emergency physician, treatment and diagnostic imaging. The clinic, which launches today, and is equipped with…

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Continuity of care could save billions

Patients who see the same GP are less likely to be admitted to hospital unnecessarily, potentially saving the healthcare system billions, new research shows. While efforts had been made to improve access to primary care, those efforts might have had the unintended side effect of reducing continuity of care, the authors of the British study wrote. In fact, continuity of care tended to be worse in…

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Data looks at emergency departments and GP access

New data has highlighted Tasmanians’ access to care and experiences in the health system.  More than 15 per cent of Tasmanian patients did not report emergency department doctors or specialists always or often listened carefully to them, the second worst result nationally.  However, almost 92 per cent of Tasmanians expressed they felt ED nurses always or often carefully listened to them, the second best national result. The…

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Google installs new health feature, doctors implore patients to still seek professional advice

Google has launched a feature providing information, approved by a panel of doctors, for more than 900 health conditions.  When a consumer types in a health condition, reviewed information around the condition will appear in the form on an online card, with an outline of the condition, symptoms, diagnosis and prevalence, with some featuring imagery.  However, if a user simply types in symptoms, the feature won’t appear –…

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Doctors not at fault for bulk billing upset

  HEALTH experts point to the federal government’s freeze on medicare rebates to be the source of the bulk billing debacle in Katherine.  Royal Australian College of General Practitioners president, Dr Bastian Seidel, said the freeze on Medicare patient rebates would see practices stop bulk billing or close their doors.  “News that Gorge Health has stopped all bulk billing is a troubling and very clear example…

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Federal Assistant Health Minister David Gillespie announces changes to rural general practitioner graduate placements

Tasmania’s rural communities are set to benefit from federal changes to the way medical graduates are assigned to their post-graduate general practitioner placements.  Federal Assistant Health Minister David Gillespie was in Hobart on Monday to announce a $220 million per year investment into the selection of medical graduates for the Australian General Practice Training program The government funds 1500 entries into the GP program each year,…

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Tasmanian doctors blame surgery delays for high use of morphine-based painkillers

By Emilie Gramenz Tasmanians are being prescribed morphine-based medications at a higher rate than any other state – and it is directly related to long wait lists for elective surgery, according to the peak body representing family doctors. While wait lists for elective surgery have fallen to record lows, the latest figures showed there were still about 6,000 people waiting for a procedure. The Tasmanian head of…

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GP training selection handed to colleges

The federal government has handed control of GP training selection to the RACGP and ACRRM, splitting the responsibility 90-10 between the two colleges.  Federal Assistant Health Minister Dr David Gillespie announced the decision today in Hobart, saying it was an important part of the health workforce reform agenda and would give the colleges a greater role in the “management and conduct” of GP training.   As…

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Change GP? Medical records can go with you

Tracking your health information is possible as your life changes, according to the Royal Australian College of General Practitioners president. Dr Bastian Seidel, who runs a general practice in regional Australia, said data can be transferred to other locations if your doctor or circumstances change. He said there are many health benefits to keeping with the same doctor during your life. He cited a study…

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Homeopathy fraud gets a free pass

Have you ever walked into a pharmacy looking for a homeopathic remedy? The Medical Republic did – but only to prove a point. An exhaustive search of the vitamins and supplements aisle did not reveal any homeopathic concoctions. It was only at the cold and flu section that we found, nestled between over-the-counter preparations, what we were looking for. To those who believe in science, homeopathy, by…

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Can Ley’s legacy be Hunt’s glory?

GP remuneration will be a recurring theme on Greg Hunt’s agenda in coming months, both in terms of demands for fresh reforms and repairing faltering projects left behind by Sussan Ley. Specific work to overhaul rates for GP consultations is getting under way this month as part of a case to be put to the MBS Review working group on GP items. “There’s no doubt the…

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Bastian Seidel

President of the Royal Australian College of General Practitioners Bastian Seidel talks to Steve about the appointment of Greg Hunt as Federal Minister for Health and says the government needs to lift its unpopular Medicare rebate freeze

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Starting over: Hunt a chance to ‘reset’ or not

Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull has underlined the critical significance of the health portfolio in naming Industry Minister Greg Hunt to take over the role.  Announcing the replacement for Sussan Ley, the prime minister praised Mr Hunt’s “policy, analytical and communication” skills. “He is ideally suited to take on the very important, critically important, frontline portfolio of health and sport,” Mr Turnbull said.  Mr Hunt, 51, joined…

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Doctors lobby Hunt to lift Medicare freeze

Greg Hunt has declared himself a minister for GPs but he’ll need to lift his government’s deeply unpopular Medicare freeze if he wants to thaw hostilities with furious doctors.Lobby groups were lining up to request meetings with the new health and sport minister within moments of his appointment on Wednesday, each with a lengthy list of demands.At the top of the list is the powerful…

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Concerns for aged care residents as they lose access to mental health care plans

Vulnerable Tasmanians in aged care lose access to their mental health care due to a “discriminatory” Medicare loophole.  Royal Australian College of General Practitioners president, Tasmanian GP Dr Bastian Seidel, said the loss did “not make sense as moving into residential care is stressful even for patients who do not have a mental illness, never mind for the ones who already suffer from depression and/or anxiety”.  He said residents…

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Internet lag affecting doctors: AMA

Lagging connection in rural and remote areas in compromising medical development, says the Australian Medical Association. The AMA on Tuesday released its position paper about rural health and internet connectivity.  AMA Tasmania vice president Dr Annette Douglas said regional and remote communities across Tasmania already dealt with disadvantages compared to their more metropolitan counterparts.  “These communities often have more difficulty accessing health services close to home,…

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Pharmacists get power to alter prescriptions under controversial trial

Pharmacists will have the power to alter prescriptions for patients with chronic conditions like asthma in a controversial Victorian trial that shifts some patient care away from doctors. The Australian Medical Association has been highly critical of the proposal, which the state government this week opened up to expressions of interest. Believed to be an Australian first, the 18-month pilot is expected to launch at…

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Nursing home residents denied GP mental health treatment plans and psychological therapy

Tens of thousands of elderly Australians are being denied effective public health treatments because they live in nursing homes, with experts labelling it a “disgrace” and “blatantly discriminatory”. A Fairfax Media investigation has revealed the mental health of aged-care residents suffers as a result of widespread neglect that legal and health experts attribute in large part to a “ridiculous” Medicare rule. Former nurse Ronda Gordon Under…

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Forecast oversupply of doctors to hit this year amid calls to halt imports

An oversupply of doctors is expected to emerge in Australia this year after a failed bid by the federal Department of Health to end the importation of all overseas medicos. At the same time the health department has forecast a projected shortfall of about 85,000 nurses by 2025 and 123,000 by 2030, with a recommendation that nurses be retained on the national list identifying skills…

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Qualifications of after-hours home visit doctors called into question

By A Current Affair Staff7:15pm Dec 29, 2016 The Royal Australian College of General Practitioners has called into question the qualifications of medical professionals performing after-hours home doctor visits with only 30 percent of such visits being attended by a qualified GP.Home doctor service businesses are booming across the country with multiple companies offering house calls to the young and elderly.But these visits come at…

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Government Medicare watchdog threat to GP home visits

THEY’RE the after-hours lifesavers beloved by families and emergency wards alike — but a new crackdown could make it harder for a GP to make house calls. Sue Dunlevy, News Corp Australia Network EXCLUSIVE: They are the after hours lifesavers beloved by families and emergency departments alike — but a government crackdown could make it harder for a GP to make a house call in…

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Health Care Homes trials facing boycott

The RACGP has disowned Health Minister Sussan Ley’s Health Care Homes scheme, saying it bears no resemblance to the plan it championed to fight Australia’s rising chronic disease epidemic. College president Dr Bastian Seidel has called on members to boycott trials of the scheme unless the minister puts off the planned July starting date and embarks on a redesign which includes increased funding. Minister Ley…

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Finally, some clarity on bulk-billing

Less than two-thirds of patients are being fully bulk-billed for GP visits and the rest are paying sharply higher costs to see a doctor.  For the first time, the federal health department has disclosed bulk-billing data that backs doctors’ fears about the Medicare rebate freeze eroding access to healthcare.  The department revealed last week that only 64.7% of patients were routinely bulk-billed by their GPs…

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