A Wodonga doctor has called on the party elected to address a "neglected" general practice system that can't be solely blamed on COVID.
Dr Alison Green, of Wodonga's Central Medical Group, said the future of general practice had to be front and centre this campaign as GPs, practice managers, nurses, receptionists and administrative workers were needed now by patients across the Border and North East more than ever.
"It's been neglected for a very long time. There were problems before COVID, I think COVID has just highlighted the issues in general practice," Dr Green said.
"General practice is still the first port of call for a lot of people with disability, and especially people over 65 with chronic diseases, and mental health issues as well.
"We encourage patients with long-term problems to have the same GP. There's lots of evidence to show that provides much better care, but the issue is you don't get recompense for doing that.
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"As the problems become more complex, you need to spend more time with people trying to sort out their issues and basically keep them out of hospitals, which is what we're trying to do.
"The longer you see patients, if you're privately billing, then they're going to be out of pocket more. If you're bulk-billing them, you're actually losing money for the longer consults because you don't get rewarded as much.
"For a standard consult, if you were to spend twice that amount of time with somebody, it's not twice the amount of money you get from that. Basically, the system is not set up to provide that in-depth care."
Dr Green said a 10 per cent increase of Medicare rebates for shorter consultations would allow GPs to take the time needed for patients with complex needs, such as mental health concerns and chronic conditions .
"It's also time for a new Medicare item for longer consultations more than 60 minutes so that we can take the time to get to the bottom of what is going on," she said.
"A lot of the mental health burden falls on GPs and it's time-consuming, and so it should be. You can't sort out somebody's mental health problems in a 15-minute consult, it's underfunded."
Dr Green said telehealth had a role to play, particularly if it was a long-term patient of a doctor, but could be problematic if it was solely done over the phone.
She would also like to see greater investment in rural healthcare to address a major shortage, with better pay for GPs who use advanced skills, such as mental health and paediatrics in rural areas.
"We're lucky we're in a pretty big centre, but you don't have to go far to places like Corryong to find big problems with general practice numbers," she said.
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