Australian Telehealth Services Restored to Meet Pandemic Demands

By Marina Zhang
Marina Zhang
Marina Zhang
Marina Zhang is based in Melbourne and focuses on Australian news. Contact her at marina.zhang@epochtimes.com.au.
January 16, 2022 Updated: January 16, 2022

The Australian Medical Association (AMA) announced that telehealth consultations would be restored temporarily to meet healthcare demands during the Omicron outbreak.

AMA President Omar Khorshid said in a media release that Health Minister Greg Hunt and Treasurer Josh Frydenberg had endorsed the AMA’s proposals on Jan. 16 to restore expanded patient access to telehealth.

“The AMA welcomes the six-month return to the telehealth rules used earlier in the pandemic. COVID-19 positive patients and other patients wanting to see their doctor will now have better access to medical treatment by phone or video,” Khorshid said. “GPs will be able to bill Medicare for telehealth MBS Level C consultations, meaning they can spend more time on a greater range of patient needs via telehealth.”

The Medicare Benefits Schedule (MBS) (pdf) is a list of the medical services for which the Australian government will pay a rebate to provide patients with financial assistance for their medical services. This includes consultation fees for GPs and specialists as well as tests and examinations for medical diagnosis.

“Other private specialists will also be able to use telehealth once again to conduct relevant consultations with patients by phone or video, saving patients having to travel,” Khorshid said.

AMA President said that COVID-19 patient demand on GPs has yet to peak, with many medical practices forced to triage and care for COVID positive patients on top of usual patient care.

He said more help from the government is needed for medical practices to care for markedly increased health needs within the community.

“The surge in Omicron infection is seeing patients reaching out to general practice like never before. Many practices are struggling to answer all the phone calls they are receiving and provide the care that is required of their patients,” Korshid said.

First Batch of Ordered Rapid Antigen Tests Arrives in Victoria

News of telehealth assistance comes as the Victoria Government announced that the first major delivery of 3 million Rapid Antigen Tests (RATs) from the Andrews government’s recent order of 44 million has arrived. Distributions of the RATs is set to commence on Jan. 17.

Workers in sensitive settings and essential workforces will be prioritised to receive the RATs; this includes essential workers in healthcare, emergency services, disability, and aged care services.

Victorians who may have pre-existing conditions that make them more susceptible to severe illness will also be prioritised.

“As we continue to test, there’s nothing more important than getting your third dose—it will not only give you better protection against COVID-19 but also significantly slow transmission,” the Victorian state premier, Daniel Andrews, said on Jan. 16.

Andrews also encouraged more uptake of booster shots saying that the third dose will “significantly” slow propagation across the population.

“As we continue to test, there’s nothing more important than getting your third dose—it will not only give you better protection against COVID-19 but also significantly slow transmission.”

More than 60 local communities and multifaith organisations are currently distributing free RATs to Victorians in need as part of their care and support programs.

Last week, more than 400,000 RATs were distributed at more than 60 Victorian PCR testing centres.

The Victorian government stated that the distribution of free RATs has helped reduce the pressure on the PCR testing system, significantly reducing PCR testing wait times.

Most recent data shows that as of Jan. 17, there have been 22,429 new cases in Victoria, with 1,229 patients hospitalised and 24 percent of Victorians over 18 have received their booster shots.

Marina Zhang
Marina Zhang is based in Melbourne and focuses on Australian news. Contact her at marina.zhang@epochtimes.com.au.