Australians wanting to consult their doctor via phone or video call will continue to get access to subsidised telehealth until March in a $2 billion extension of coronavirus measures. Source: Sydney Morning Herald.
Other health initiatives including free coronavirus tests, backing for 148 GP-led respiratory clinics and home medicine deliveries are also being extended, as is a deal with state governments and private hospitals to free up beds when required. The 24-hour National Coronavirus Helpline will also continue to operate.
Since telehealth was added to Medicare subsidies at the end of March, nearly 10.6 million Australians have used it for more than 30.5 million medical consultations with GPs, nurses, midwives and allied health and mental health services. More than three in five of the appointments were standard GP consultations of less than 20 minutes.
Health Minister Greg Hunt said the level of take-up in effect brought forward a 10-year plan for telehealth within days.
The Medicare-backed telehealth funding had been slated to dry up on September 30. It will now also cover telehealth consultations with essential specialist services such as consultant physicians, geriatricians and neurosurgeons.
Prime Minister Scott Morrison said the $2 billion funding extension would continue to provide Australians with critical health care during the pandemic.
Catholic Health Australia was among those in the health sector who had requested an extension to the telehealth program. In a July letter to Mr Morrison, published on the CHA website, chief executive Pat Garcia said “CHA strongly urges the Government to make telehealth part of Australia’s health landscape beyond September 2020”.
Telehealth extended in $2b boost to coronavirus health measures (By Katina Curtis, Sydney Morning Herald)
Telehealth service retention letter (Catholic Health Australia)