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PM announces major overhaul of medicare system to improve primary care

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Prime Minister Anthony Albanese has put healthcare reform at the top of his agenda with a planned overhaul of the Medicare system and improvements to primary care.

The National cabinet will convene next week to address the strain on Medicare with a focus on boosting the number of general practitioners.

Less than 14 per cent of medical graduates were choosing careers in the sector, down from about half of the university leavers.

Albanese and Tasmanian Premier Jeremy Rockliff announced the Australia-first program aimed at simplifying the process of recruiting and training GPs for the state’s health services.

The program will give GP registrars, including rural trainees, the option to be employed by the Tasmanian Health Service and do their final placements in practices across the state rather than having to change employers and miss out on entitlements.

This would allow people to have a single employer, a model that is expected to attract more medical graduates into general practice.

The Australian Medical Association (AMA) and Rural Doctors Association of Australia have advocated for a single-employer model to provide GP trainees with wages and conditions comparable with doctors training in other specialty areas in public hospitals.

AMA president Professor Steve Robson said doctors who considered entering the GP training program faced an estimated $25,000 wage cut once they left the public hospital system and inferior access to personal, annual, long service and parental leave arrangements.

The Tasmanian pilot will start in July and the prime minister wants similar programs to be rolled out across Australia.

“The reason why primary health care and GPs are so important is it’s more than just a transaction, it’s a relationship for life,” Albanese said.

“It’s a relationship, which is about making sure health issues are diagnosed early, that intervention happens as soon as possible (and) if that happens it will cost less because we will have less people who have acute health issues.”

Rockliff said the pilot was an innovative response to the issues in the state’s healthcare system.

“When you have those challenges, you don’t play the blame game,” he said.

“You sit down sensibly, as Mark (Butler) and I have done – and indeed the national cabinet – and work together to find solutions.”

RDAA president Megan Belot welcomed the announcement and said it would make rural practice a more attractive career choice for junior doctors.

Prof Robson said the program was a good first step towards addressing GP workforce problems faced in Tasmania and urged other state and territory governments to implement the model.

He also called for the next federal budget to include more funding for general practice to improve the sector’s viability and increase patient access to services.

Health Minister Mark Butler said there was no higher priority for the government than strengthening the Medicare system.

“Young medical graduates thinking about their career choices want to know that the federal government and their local state government sees value in general practice, sees value in primary care,” he said.

“That’s our commitment to make sure that we bring primary care general practice to its rightful place because it is the backbone of our healthcare system.”

With AAP.

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