Saturday, January 29, 2011

Too Little Focus On Medical Care For The Elderly In Productivity Commission's Aged Care Draft Report, Australia

AMA President, Dr Andrew Pesce, called on the Government to place a higher priority on medical care for the elderly in its response to the recommendations in the Productivity Commission's draft report, Caring for Older Australians, and its final report in June.

Dr Pesce said that although the Commission made occasional reference to medical care needs and the AMA's submission in its 500-plus page draft report, ongoing access to medical care was given low priority and little urgency in the recommendations to Government.

"Older Australians need and deserve ongoing access to their doctors when they enter the aged care system," Dr Pesce said.

"Older Australians living in residential aged care are very frail and most have complex health conditions. Access to ongoing medical care and supervision is essential to ensure they receive the same standard of medical care enjoyed by the rest of the population.

"Any reform of the aged care system must incorporate specific recommendations around preserving a person's access to quality medical care when they enter the aged care system, and create programs and incentives that will allow doctors and other health professionals to provide quality health care in residential aged care and in the community.

"Every elderly person in Australia deserves a right to medical care, regardless of whether they're in their own home or in a nursing home. The doctor-patient relationship must be preserved for older Australians at the time in their lives when they need it most.

"As a community, we need to put more humanity into the aged care debate," Dr Pesce said.

The AMA is calling on the Government to adopt the following aged care reforms:

- Aged care accreditation arrangements that more closely monitor and guarantee that aged care residents receive medical care and supervision on an ongoing basis;

- Specific financial support to allow approved residential aged care providers to enter into arrangements with medical practitioners, underpinned by a retainer, to ensure residents can access appropriate medical care;

- MBS rebates that better reflect the complexity of providing ongoing medical care to residents of aged care facilities for doctors and general practice nurses;

- Government support to residential aged care providers to ensure there are adequately equipped clinical treatment areas that afford patient privacy and information technology to enable access to medical records and to improve medication management; and

- Sufficient numbers of registered nurses to monitor, assess and care for residents and liaise with doctors.

The AMA will make a further submission to the Productivity Commission's draft report and will participate in the public hearings scheduled for March and April.

Australian Medical Association
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