Doctors express concern about residential aged care:
The AMA says the number of doctors visiting residential aged care is in decline & calls for a "long-term vision".
Date: December 10 2012
Older Australians living in residential aged care have limited access to medical care and the situation will get worse as the number of doctors who conduct residential aged care visits continues to decline, according to the AMA 2012 Aged Care Survey.
The survey shows that the older medical workforce is providing the majority of medical services to older Australians in residential aged care, and that more than 15% of them intend to reduce their visits over the next two years.
There are clear signs that the Government and the aged care sector are struggling to produce incentives and conditions to attract female and younger doctors to provide medical services in residential aged care into the future.
Only about a quarter of those who attend residential aged care facilities are female, and nine in ten practitioners who attend are over 40. This contrasts with the demographics of Australia’s overall medical workforce, two-fifths of whom are female and a third are under 45.
The AMA today released a comprehensive report on the survey which was conducted nationally in July.
AMA President, Dr Steve Hambleton, said today that the Australian aged care sector is in urgent need of support and long-term vision, and the AMA is calling on the major parties to spell out comprehensive aged care policies ahead of next year’s election.
“This year’s Living Longer Living Better aged care reform package provided no focus at all on the medical needs of older Australians once they enter residential aged care,” Dr Hambleton said.
“For many years, the AMA has highlighted that access to medical care for older Australians has been a policy free zone for successive governments.
“The aged care sector must be able to provide a level and quality of medical, nursing and allied health services that meets the needs of the ageing population.
“It is time for the Government to take a serious look at measures to ensure older Australians continue to have access to medical care.
“The AMA calls on the Minister for Ageing to convene a specific forum for clinical providers to consider and advise the Government on the best options to incorporate medical and nursing care in the aged care sector.
“Medicare rebates for medical services provided in residential aged care facilities must be increased to reflect the complexity of care and the significant amount of additional, but clinically relevant, non face-to-face time with the patient that goes into overseeing their care.
“Medicare rebates for GP video consultations would mean residents of aged care facilities could receive timely quality health care without medical practitioners sacrificing time in their busy practices.
“And improving IT facilities – considered a priority by almost 82% of respondents – would overcome the technological barriers to the entry of younger medical practitioners into the aged care sector.
“More than 700 survey respondents gave a high priority to measures to increase the availability of suitably trained and experienced nurses and other health professions to support the care of older Australians living in residential aged care facilities.”
Key elements of the AMA 2012 Aged Care Survey include:
• 731 general practitioners, consultant physicians, geriatricians, emergency physicians, psychiatrists, and palliative medicine specialists responded to the Survey;
• the average age of medical practitioners providing medical care to older Australians in residential aged care facilities is 52.5;
• just 9.3% of medical practitioners providing medical care to older Australians in residential aged care facilities are under the age of 40;
• 25.4% of medical practitioners providing medical care to older Australians in residential aged care facilities are female;
• the average number of visits by medical practitioners per month to residential aged care facilities is 6.3 visits– down from 8.36 visits per month in the 2008 AMA Survey;
• the average number of patients seen by medical practitioners per visit to residential aged care facilities is 5.8 – up from 4.77 patients in 2008 – indicating higher demand for medical care;
• the average time spent with each patient is 16.2 minutes – up from 13.12 minutes in 2008;
• the average time spent for each patient managing the care of the patient with the facility and/or family is 13.9 minutes – up from 13.2 minutes in 2008;
• 31.5% of survey respondents have decreased their visits to residential aged care facilities over the last five years – up from 21.64 per cent in 2008; and
• 95.6% of survey respondents identified the need to improve the availability of suitably trained and experienced nurses and other health professionals in residential aged care.