The Productivity Commission will now take into account the views of the Australian Medical Association (AMA) when issuing its recommendations for aged care reform, even though medical care was not specifically included in the inquiry’s original terms of reference.
The Commission agreed to receive an AMA presentation to the Inquiry into Caring for Older Australians on the integration between community services, the aged care sector and doctors, following the organisation’s request for medical care to be considered.
An AMA delegation of geriatricians, psychiatrists, general practitioners, and rehabilitation and palliative care specialists presented their case for reform to the Commission in Canberra last week.
AMA Vice President, Dr Steve Hambleton, said he was pleased that the Commission agreed to hear from the delegation as medical practitioners play an integral role in aged and community care.
“We wanted to make sure that the role of the family doctor was locked into the [Commission’s] thinking process about future solutions,” Dr Hambleon said.
“All of these people make up the workforce that currently looks after ageing Australians and [the Commission] was pleased to speak to all these people in one go.”
Dr Hambleton said that had the Commission not agreed to hear their presentation, then it is most likely that its report “wouldn’t have been as balanced as could have been”.
“Medical care wasn’t excluded specifically in the terms of reference but it wasn’t included either. My reason for it not being [specifically included] is that the Commission wanted a broad range view of aged care.”
He confirmed that the Commission was the correct forum to present the AMA’s message, as it had adopted a “multi-channel approach” to advocating for reform: “As long as we put our views forward in all of [the forums], that’s the best way forward.”
The AMA delegation said, in their presentation, that the single factor most critical to quality care is timely patient access to a doctor.
“We have view that there are some impediments now,” Dr Hambleton said. “The MBS rebates for services provided by doctors are inadequate and don’t reflect ongoing care delivered at the moment.”
The AMA called on the Commission to recommend an expanded role for practice nurses in providing medical care to older people in aged care facilities and in the community.
“The other thing that stops people from going in to aged care is the lack of support when you get there…There should be RNs in aged care to facilitate the medical treatment of patients.”
The AMA also discussed the need for a specific aged care accreditation standard for medical care, to ensure that access to medical care in aged care is monitored and scrutinised.