Port Augusta doctor highlights need for investment in general practice

HEALTH: Doctor Kalpesh Lad wants to see governments invest more in GPs to keep up with increased demand for health services. Photo: supplied.
HEALTH: Doctor Kalpesh Lad wants to see governments invest more in GPs to keep up with increased demand for health services. Photo: supplied.

A Port Augusta doctor has urged election campaigners to keep the future of general practice "front and centre" as local doctors are needed more than ever in regional South Australia.

Doctor Kalpesh Lad said the combination of COVID-19, vaccinations, people putting off seeking treatment due to the pandemic, and mental health issues exacerbated by the pandemic, has increased demand on general practice teams.

He said doctors, along with practice managers, nurses, receptionists and administrative workers are needed more than ever, but regional practices have been under the pump for a long time.

"The pressures facing general practice have not sprung up overnight either," Dr Lad said.

"It's important to remember that we were already facing an ageing population, rising rates of chronic disease such as diabetes and more and more patients presenting with mental health concerns.

"There are fault lines in our health system that if not properly addressed will lead to patients in places such as Port Augusta not being able to access the care they need."

He said it was vital for governments to look at boosting investment into general practice care to avoid patients slipping through the cracks and missing out on potentially life-saving care.

One possible investment was through increased Medicare rebates, which the Senate has recommended through its Community Affairs References Committee.

The Committee released an interim report into the provision of GP and primary health services in April, with recommendations that included expanding government programs to attract graduate doctors to regional practices.

Dr Lad suggested increasing Medicare rebates for Level C consults, which last at least 20 minutes, and Level D consults, which last at least 40 minutes.

"This will allow us to take the time needed to care for patients in Port Augusta with complex needs, such as those with mental health concerns and people with multiple chronic conditions like asthma," he said.

"It's also time for [a] new Medicare item for longer consultations lasting more than 60 minutes so that we can take the time to get to the bottom of what is going on."

The Royal Australian College of General Practitioners (RACGP) has also been calling for greater investment in GP services.

The College has stated it wants to see things like new service incentive payments to improve care for older people and retaining telehealth rebates for patients to have longer telehealth consultations.

Dr Lad said those sorts of changes could be vital in ensuring no patient is left behind and had access to care and support.

This story GP wants doctors kept 'front and centre' during election first appeared on The Transcontinental.