“Access to medical services in the bush could worsen if proposed changes to the Practice Incentive Program (PIP) proceed,” National Rural Health Alliance CEO, David Butt, said today.
“Getting the right medical workforce into rural and remote Australia is difficult. People living in rural and remote Australia are poorer, sicker and older on average than their city counterparts and they have poorer access to health services,” Mr Butt said.
Mr Butt said the redesign of the PIP seeks to combine a number of standalone incentive payments into one overarching payment.
“The danger is that the redesign will take money away from rural practices, where the various payments help support general practice to remain viable in the bush, and redistribute those funds more broadly across Australia, including the large number of urban practices,” Mr Butt said.
The Alliance agrees with the Rural Doctors Association of Australia and the Australian College of Rural and Remote Medicine in calling for the Procedural General Practice Payment to be left out of the PIP redesign process.
“The Alliance supports the concept of a broader quality payment, but considers that the measures of quality need to be well defined – not simply a reward for continuous improvement or for doing what quality general practices should be doing anyway,” Mr Butt said.
“Most certainly we do not support these funding changes being done at the expense of support for rural and remote general practice when it is already hard to attract and retain the right workforce.
“Procedural GPs are often the lifeblood of small rural and remote towns – providing both GP services as well as hospital services including delivering babies, doing surgery and giving anaesthetics. Removing this payment could see procedural GPs cease to be engaged in that rural workforce model”.
“The incentives need to remain in place to encourage these practices.
“The Alliance notes that the rural loading incentive payment has been excluded from the redesign, however no commitment has been made about retaining the level of funding. For some rural and remote practices – which are only just financially viable under current arrangements – losing this payment could be detrimental and result in practices closing.
“The Alliance would like to see the Government agree to exclude the rural loading incentive as well as the current funding from the redesign process. This incentive payment goes some way to recognising the higher costs and complexities of providing services in the bush.”
We need to ensure that people living in rural and remote Australia have good access to medical services. These doctors are providing vital services to rural and remote communities and must be supported to ensure optimal patient outcomes.