Updated 27/03/2020 – the post below is not up to date. Please visit https://gshealth.com.au/covid-19/ for up to date information.
Lets start with the most important points first to reduce the chance of getting an infection, spreading an infection, and getting tested for an infection We’ll get to the nitty gritty later. In order to reduce the risk of exposure between patients to patients, and patients to staff, we are offering telephone consultations for patients who are experiencing; To screen effectively for the above, and to explain to everyone the process we are taking these appointments by phone. You can still book online and attend the clinic if you are not suffering from any of the above. When you do attend the clinic, we will ask the same questions again, as people often have booked appointments before we instituted these policies, and to clarify any questions you may have. If you have any inkling of symptoms, a sniffle, a mild cough, staff will offer you a mask and we ask that you kindly wear it during your time in the clinic, and only remove it when your doctor is examining you. If you refuse to wear a mask if offered, will not be able to see you. We are looking after some of the most medically vulnerable members of our community, and masks are not given out lightly. Unfortunately, the current medicare rules do not allow us to provide a MEDICARE (MBS) REBATE for telephone consultations provided. As we are a private billing clinic, our standard consultations have always cost $85. At present the cost of a telephone consultation is the same as a standard 15 minute consultation, which is treated like a regular appointment. You will have an allocated time for your doctor to call you, and all necessary paperwork, pathology requests, medical certificates, follow up and contact will be covered by this fee. The new telehealth item announced by the federal government unfortunately doesn’t go far enough to help reduce the spread of transmission. It appears to be limited initially only to those who have already seen/spoken to a doctor and are quarantined, and can only be offered when they are quarantined. It also hamstrings centres that have committed lots of funds to extra PPE, staffing, and a level of service that can only be maintained by that fee structure – then to be told they can only offer in restricted situations.
For clinics that are bulk billing, follow up consultations can now be rebated for people who are quarantined, above 70, immunosupressed, or pregnant. For private billing clinics, this can not be offered to patients as a rebate. The simple solution being called for by the medical community, is to remove the ATTENDANCE REQUIREMENT for the regular consultation numbers in general practice. This would effectively allow ALL general practices and general practitioners in Australia to be able to offer telehealth consultations, without any added penalty for patients for doing the right thing and trying to reduce the spread of infection. The current item as structured is going to force people to attend in person, to clinics that can not afford to offer telehealth item consultations or have the capacity to provide enough PPE.