‘Very disappointed’: Australian Medical Association lashes out at Health Minister Mark Butler over changes to Telehealth services


Health Minister Mark Butler has come under fire from the Australian Medical Association over a decision made regarding telehealth services.

The Australian Medical Association has lashed out at Health Minister Mark Butler over changes to Telehealth.

Mr Butler told reporters on Thursday that Level C telephone consultations lasting 20 minutes or more will not be extended beyond June 30.

The measure was initially intended to end last December, but was extended for another six months by the former coalition government.

AMA President Dr Omar Khorshid said the association was “deeply disappointed” when it learned of Mr Butler’s decision.

“Australians who are most vulnerable, those who don’t have access to high-speed internet or who can’t use the devices you need to actually conduct a video conference, they’ll get the phone access they took today gone tomorrow,” said Dr. khorshid.

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“The people we least want to be in a doctor’s office because of the risk of contracting COVID from other patients or from their doctor will be in those waiting rooms at increased risk of contracting COVID.

“Or they may actually stay at home, not wanting to expose themselves and even miss out on their healthcare. Both are unacceptable results and we are very disappointed with today’s minister’s decision.

“But we are hopeful that through more discussion, as this was of course a pretty hasty decision, the minister can understand the really important role telehealth plays in our society.”

AMA Vice President Dr Chris Moy said many of his patients do not have broadband access or use smartphones because he emphasized that consultations often took longer.

“The kinds of things I often have to do is take a call from a patient who is COVID positive, for example, and then really figure out if they need or qualify for antivirals and if they have any contraindications or if they can take them. and it’s safe for them to take it,” he said.

“This could take a very long time. This decision will jeopardize GPs’ ability, for example, to provide the antiviral treatment that will be so crucial in protecting individuals from getting serious illness from COVID.”

Mr Butler said patients will still have access to telephone consultations for up to 20 minutes and video consultations will also remain available.

“Some of the telecare arrangements, especially allowing telephone consultations for longer consultations, were set to expire at the end of December and were temporarily extended by the former government until the end of June,” he said.

“It is important to emphasize that in the first place people can always have a telephone consultation with their doctor for shorter consultations, so Level A and Level B consultations up to 20 minutes.

“In addition, they will always be able to have a remote or virtual consultation with their doctor, provided it is a video consultation. It is not our intention to change the previous government’s decision, but that additional telephone consultation for the longer consultations will end today.”

Mr Butler added that he was delaying by three months the compliance arrangements to come into effect from July 1.

“Those compliance arrangements were essentially based on a certain proportion of telehealth consultations as part of a GP day in particular. I don’t think it’s appropriate for those compliance measures to start tomorrow as the former government had decided,” he said.

“Given what GPs and patients are currently dealing with and given the level of respiratory disease in the community, more and more people, more and more GPs for that matter, are choosing to have consultations virtually and I don’t want GPs to be penalized for that. ”