The Federal Government will extend subsidised telehealth sessions for an extra six months, as part of a $2 billion top up to keep COVID-19 health measures going during the pandemic.
The additional funding will ensure Medicare-subsidised telehealth for general practitioners, nursing, midwifery, allied health and allied mental health services will continue until 31 March 2021.
Health Minister Greg Hunt said the scheme, implemented when the pandemic first took hold, has been a « revolution in health delivery ».
« It was borne from necessity but it’s delivered better health care for over 30 million consultations so far, » Mr Hunt said.
« In particular we know it’s been used for over 18 million regular consultations by general practitioners.
« It’s kept the patients safe, it’s kept the nurses safe, it’s kept the doctors safe, » he said.
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More than $600 million was initially set aside by the Government in March to expand Medicare subsidies for telehealth services, allowing Australians to have consultations with a range of health professionals via video and phone rather than attend appointments in person.
Telehealth for « essential specialist services », such as consultant physician, geriatrician, and neurosurgery services, will also continue with bulk billing and regular billing practices to apply.
« There will be support for home medicine delivery, continued free COVID-19 pathology tests, as well as further personal protective equipment, respiratory clinics and the state and private hospital partnership agreement, » he said.
Prime Minister Scott Morrison said the extra money brings the Commonwealth’s investment in COVID-19 health responses to $16.5 billion.
« By providing telehealth and home delivery medicine services we are reducing the risk of exposure to COVID-19 in the community while also supporting people in isolation to get the care they need. »
This service may include material from Agence France-Presse (AFP), APTN, Reuters, AAP, CNN and the BBC World Service which is copyright and cannot be reproduced.
AEST = Australian Eastern Standard Time which is 10 hours ahead of GMT (Greenwich Mean Time)
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