The quality of the aged care workforce is a major focus of the Royal Commission into Aged Care Quality and Safety—but what about the role of general practitioners?
They are the primary providers of medical care to older people living in the community and in aged care homes. According to a Royal Australian College of General Practitioners report, they provided 5.5 million Medicare services to age care homes and around one in seven doctors work there.
It’s probably not surprising, therefore, that better aged care is one of the four key priorities GPs want government action on.
Under-investment in Medicare rebates, mental health and obesity are the other areas of GP concern.
College President Dr Harry Nespolon said GPs were a vital integrated part of the aged care workforce.
“Some 14 per cent of GPs reported they had worked in these facilities. That is a significant figure that must not be ignored when considering the health outcomes of older Australians,” he said.
GPs reported increased work-life pressures when treating the aged community and they have called for more professional support. Time pressures, workforce issues and limited infrastructure were reported as reasons doctors found themselves undertaking unremunerated work.
Doctors are also ageing – one third are aged 55-plus – and are calling on government investment to halt a decline in the number of GPs and specialists at a time of increasing need.
The report warns less doctors mean older patients will end up in an emergency department resulting in delayed care and poorer health outcomes, as well as more expenses on the taxpayer.