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OPPOSITION BACKS DOCTORS’ CALLS FOR TELEHEALTH EXTENSION

The Federal Opposition has backed calls this week by the Australian Medical Association and Royal Australian College of General Practitioners for telehealth services introduced for the pandemic to be extended.

Opposition health spokesman, Chris Bowen MP, had called for the introduction of Medicare telehealth rebates early in this health emergency, and was said to have consistently supported reforms to the items to improve patient outcomes.

In a statement to the press, Mr Bowen said the AMA and RACGP had reiterated that the pandemic will not end on 30 September – when Medicare telehealth items are due to cease – and has called on the Government to extend the items until March 2021, in line with the JobKeeper extension.

“Medical and allied health services delivered by telehealth have allowed Australians to access health care from home while reducing COVID-19 risks for patients and health care workers alike,” Mr Bowen said in a statement.

“Labor backs these calls by the AMA and RACGP and urges the Government to extend the telehealth program.”

The Opposition believes the extension should include both telephone and video-conference items, to maintain access and choice for patients and providers – including those who can’t access video services.

It is believed the extension period should be used to agree a long-term future for telehealth, as part of broader efforts to boost the quality and coordination of care.

The Opposition has also urged the Government to extend telehealth access for mental health services in consultation with the sector, and to release and response to the Productivity Commission report on mental health urgently.

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