Monday, 23 March 2020
Questions without Notice
I thank the opposition spokesperson for this question. The answer is, yes, we will be taking those steps. Shortly before question time we announced the third stage of our telehealth expansion. The first stage of telehealth expansion was announced with the initial package of activities, with regard to the $2.4 billion of health activities. That, in particular, provided telehealth to those who were in isolation or seeking diagnosis for coronavirus, but also to vulnerable groups who were not within those areas. The second stage, which commenced on 16 March, was an expansion of telehealth items for midwives. It recognises a general practice for continuity of care practices, which means a broader access for people who were otherwise vulnerable. Then, today, in a joint statement with the Royal Australian College of General Practitioners and the Australian Medical Association, in conjunction with the Australian College of Rural and Remote Medicine, ACRRM, and the RDAA, the Rural Doctors Association of Australia, we announced a further expansion of telehealth. That expansion allows all medical practitioners who are vulnerable to be able to practise from home.
As part of that, we have announced that we will be moving to and designing stage 4. The medical practitioners were very, very, very clear that they wanted to design this carefully and in a staged capacity. Stage 4 is whole-of-population access to telehealth. The reasons it is being done in a staged capacity are twofold. One, there is a very important need to maintain face-to-face services, whether it is for conditions that might be cardiac, or conditions that might involve musculoskeletal challenges, or conditions that might involve diagnoses through the ability to actually test and feel and see a patient's condition. All of these were identified by the medical practitioners as a critical step forward. Telehealth for whole-of-population is now being designed in conjunction with those groups I have just outlined. It is being led by Professor Michael Kidd, who is working with the government. We have now had over 100,000 telehealth services provided, and they are continuing at well over 20,000 a day. Stage 4 will allow that to be provided on a whole-of-population basis. The other thing we wanted to do is make sure that smaller general practices were protected, which was a specific request. All of these elements are part of the current design.