AMA (NSW) is urging the Commonwealth to reconsider its expiration date on hotspot status for communities in NSW.
“The hotspot status gives medical professionals a few more tools in the toolbox to deal with pandemic and it’s premature to cut that support,” said Dr Michael Bonning, AMA (NSW) Chair of Council.
“We are in the infancy of reopening in NSW, and we expect to see an uptick in COVID transmission as people start to move around in the community.
“Unlike previous outbreaks, we are reducing restrictions while case numbers are still high.”
Hotspot status gives patients and doctors in these declared areas access to two Medicare Benefits Schedule items for telehealth consultations.
The Commonwealth support allows patients to have longer phone consultations for chronic conditions or other health issues that may require doctors to spend more time with patients. Patients in hotspot areas can access a rebate for phone attendance by a GP lasting at least 20 minutes.
It also means patients in hotspots, as well as those under stay-at-home orders, do not need to have physically attended their general practice within the past 12 months to access telehealth services.
“For many patients, there could still be a reluctance to physically visit their GP, so having access to telehealth support will be important to their ongoing care.
“We know that some patients have already been delaying care for an extended period and we need to do everything we can at this point to provide access to healthcare.
“As some patients, particularly older patients, have difficulty setting up video consultations, the option to have a longer telephone consultation is still necessary,” Dr Bonning said.
Starting in late June, the Commonwealth declared 47 hotspot areas in NSW, including all of Greater Sydney, as well as the Central Coast, Blue Mountains, Wollongong, and Shell Harbour areas of New South Wales.
That status is set to expire today – 11 October.
Media contact: Andrea Cornish – 0419 402 955