Lack of resources and funding is holding back GPs who want to continue providing care to their elderly patients as they transition into residential aged care, the Australian Medical Association (AMA) has argued.
AMA President Dr Tony Bartone declared the view during last week’s Family Doctor Week, which calls for family doctors and individuals to partner together to achieve better health.
Dr Bartone said GP’s faced hurdles when wanting to care for their patients as they enter aged care facilities, hindering continuity of care and breaking a relationship forged over many years.
“Doctors who visit aged care facilities usually have a longstanding association with their patients and want to continue their clinical care,” Dr Bartone said.
“However, members tell us that they are continually meeting barriers to facilitating that care, despite the improved health outcomes from a longstanding doctor-patient relationship.”
Dr Bartone said the current Aged Care Royal Commission had shone the light on the lack of support from both the health and aged care systems to support doctors continuing to care for patients in aged care.
He listed the growing reliance on lesser trained personal care assistants instead of registered nurses as one of the biggest barriers to patient care.
“If there is no registered nurse present for a clinical handover by the doctor, crucial medical information may be missed, increasing the risk of patients not receiving their prescribed medication.”
“Residential aged care homes often lack basic equipment and facilities to support doctors to carry out their work. Often there are no frameworks around clinical care delivery or communication with doctors about the provision of medical care for older patients.”
Medicare rebates for visiting patients are not meeting the real cost of providing care, and coupled with travel time, increased paperwork and logistical problems, is forcing many doctors to look at cutting back their visits or stopping them altogether.
Dr Bartone said the AMA believes mandated ratios in aged care are critical to addressing issues.
“The AMA is calling for an appropriate and mandated staff-resident ratio that aligns with the level of care needed in each facility, and ensures 24-hour on-site registered nurse availability.”
The AMA is also calling for Medicare rebates to increase by at least 50% to adequately compensate family doctors for the additional time and complexity involved in visiting aged care facilities.