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General practice exposed as hotspot declarations expire

The AMA has urged the Minister for Health to maintain and/or extend hotspot status and for ongoing support for general practice as hotspots expire.

The current Commonwealth hotspot declarations applying to large parts of New South Wales have been extended by one week while similar declarations applying to parts of Victoria are about to expire. This is despite high case numbers in Victoria and the NSW Government saying on a number of occasions that case numbers in NSW will start to rise following the easing of restrictions.

In a letter to the Minister for Health this week, AMA President Dr Omar Khorshid urged the Government and the Department to maintain and/or extend hotspot status for those parts of the country where there are sustained community transmission – and to keep this in place until vaccination rates are much higher and alternative arrangements are available to provide the necessary ongoing support that general practice will need.

“General practices need much greater certainty about the support they will receive going forward and it is unfair to put them in a position where they are expected to manage the impact of COVID-19 with no support or where they are left to yo-yo in and out of support eligibility,” Dr Khorshid said in the letter.

“GPs need your ongoing support in circumstances where there is significant community transmission and the withdrawal of hotspot status makes their job much harder than it should be.”

In a welcome move, the Department of Health is in discussion with the AMA about a longer term plan to provide extra support for general practice in dealing with COVID-19 as it becomes endemic in the community. However, this remains a work in progress that does not address existing needs and the current situation means that once a hotspot declaration expires general practices are left exposed.

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