GP groups push for $530m stimulus package
GP groups will need to build a stronger case to back up their latest calls for a $530m government grants package, a leading health economist warns.
In an open letter to Prime Minister Kevin Rudd, GP umbrella group United General Practice Australia (UGPA) has called on the Government to award practices one-off grants of up to $30,000 for IT and office infrastructure, and up to $500,000 for the capital works.
As well as stimulating the economy through job creation, UGPA argued the grants would also help prepare practices for the anticipated influx of medical students and GP registrars.
Additional infrastructure and expanded practices would also push forward the Government’s own integrated primary care agenda, as it would allow more practices to develop the capacity to recruit practice nurses.
But Menzies Foundation fellow and health economist Dr Lesley Russell (PhD) suggested UGPA would need to present more substantial evidence to support its case.
“If money is to be rationed carefully in this environment... I would not say this doesn’t deserve to be on the list, but I don’t see it near the top,” she said.
“If you are going to ask for this much money, you have to make a more substantial case about how increased investment in infrastructure will improve patient access to multidisciplinary care, how it will improve GP teaching and training, how it will improve access to care in nursing homes, and how all these services will be delivered in areas where they are needed most rather than in areas of maximum profitability.”
Health economist at the University of Adelaide Associate Professor Jon Karnon said GPs might have a case for the package but the Government would have to develop evidence-based criteria for allocating the grants.
“There could be scope for negotiation around adherence to existing or future guidelines or evidence-based best practice in the areas of chronic disease, as well as in other areas such as ordering of blood tests,” Professor Karnon said.
RACGP president Dr Chris Mitchell said recent government investment in education in response to the global economic crisis needed to be matched with additional supports for primary care.
“To date, the investments in health have been predominantly confined to hospitals, and it is really time for us to move our focus... to communities where the investment is going to make bigger differences to patient outcomes,” Dr Mitchell said.