Yes, It’s on You

Today the Prime Minister, Scott Morrison, made an announcement while I was on my lunch break. The pandemic is spreading. We are in a lockdown and the numbers are growing higher. A reporter asks the question whether this situation could have been prevented if the vaccinations had been given on schedule. “Is it on you?’’

Prime Minister Scott Morrison replied that the lockdown we are currently in was completely foreseeable. That even with the best estimates for the vaccination rollout further lockdowns could not have been prevented. This, only one week after revoking most of the telehealth billing numbers on the 1st July.

It is also completely foreseeable that I would talk on the phone this afternoon with an elderly woman who has been in hospital. Her stomach cancer is worse. Bad. She has been started on the medications that help to keep her comfortable. The palliative care team won’t see her until next week. Her medications ran out yesterday.

During this foreseeable lockdown for this patient who has booked a telehealth appointment, Medicare now offers me two choices: is this for less than or greater than six minutes?

Medicare’s failure to support GPs billing for longer telehealth appointments is a disservice to this patient, who needs this care however I can best provide it. I can provide the additional care needed without any fee at all, or I can explain to her that the government has decided to defund the telehealth numbers, and Medicare will no longer cover her fee.

Tomorrow I can expect there will be other patients also needing more time than Medicare allows for. I want to provide the best health care I can, and as a worker in a small business, I am also beholden to keep staff wages paid and cover operating costs.

Reducing telehealth care funding to less than or greater than six minutes grossly underserves my patient’s health care needs, and diminishes my decades of learning and experience as a health care professional.

Yes, Prime Minister Scott Morrison, this is on you.

Today, the Prime Minister, Scott Morrison, announced how the vaccination schedule was two months behind, but that we had achieved one million vaccinations this week, and that Pfizer vaccinations are now being rolled out from General Practices all around Australia. What he meant was that General Practices are being asked to provide an additional service on top of their usual workload, required to bulk bill without due consideration for the additional costs involved, without regard for the downstream effects of loss of usual nursing care on our workflows, and without support for additional staffing or resources.

For every unexpected announcement the Prime Minister makes concerning changes in the vaccination rollout, our medical receptionists weather the barrage of callers, wanting one vaccination or another, cancelling one vaccination or another.

If these announcements were foreseeable, we could consider how our medical receptionists who are already working over capacity could be better supported. If these announcements were foreseeable, we could rearrange our nursing rosters, or our patient bookings. But the announcements are not foreseeable. They create havoc. They result in cancelled bookings and precious vaccines wasted. They result in people calling in waves demanding appointments we cannot accommodate.

This afternoon, the Prime Minister, Scott Morrison announced that people who had had their first dose of AstraZeneca eight weeks ago could bring their second dose forward instead of waiting until twelve weeks. Our receptionist who hadn’t been able to watch because she was working, was swamped with phone calls of people asking for their second dose of AstraZeneca, which cannot be given because our bookings are organised well in advance to capacity. Our receptionist has had to work especially hard since the other receptionist quit only a few weeks ago. Because it has been one announcement after another.

The Australian Government continues to undercut, under resource, and undermine Australian GPs while simultaneously promising GPs will be delivering the next phase of the vaccination rollout. The Government may be overpromising given disillusioned and demoralised GPs are already pulling out of a rollout plan which continues to fail them.

If General Practices are going to be the mainstay of the vaccination rollout, we do need to be adequately supported, valued, informed and considered.

This is on you, Prime Minister Scott Morrison.