While the immediate fire danger has eased, we expect health impacts (anxiety, respiratory disease, etc.) to continue in coming weeks. We also want to be proactive in the event that unfavourable weather conditions cause further fires.
North Coast PHN understands that general practices and AMSs are doing all they can to meet the health needs of the community, and that many general practice staff are themselves affected by the fires. We are offering time-limited financial support to assist general practices and AMSs to open after hours to make primary care more available to:
- ‘Catch up’ those patients who were cancelled due to staff shortages or who missed appointments due to evacuation or disruptions to travel.
- Make more appointments available for those in evacuation centres.
- Ensure that people with respiratory illness, including the firefighters, have more primary care available to them over the next few weeks.
- Be there for people whose mental health has been affected.
- Positively impact on the increased demand in local health districts (LHDs).
NCPHN will make a payment of $400 per 3-hour session on weeknights (5-8pm) and $600 per 3-hour session on a weekend until 15 December 2019. This payment acknowledges the short lead time to advertise additional hours and the coordination work required to make it happen at short notice.
NCPHN will work closely with your practice to implement measures to stimulate patient volume during the additional hours.
To participate, your practice would agree to the following:
- Open for one or two 3-hour sessions per week after hours (5pm to 8pm weeknights, and/or a morning or afternoon session on the weekend) until the week ending 15 December 2019.
- Work with us where possible to spread the opening hours so that practices are not open at the same time in an area.
- Allow us to make your hours known to evacuation centre coordinators, the Rural Fire Service, the LHD emergency departments and others involved in the emergency and relief efforts, and also allow us to publicise the extended opening times in print and social media.
- See new patients affected by the emergency.
- Charge patients the same bulk billing and fee structure as regular weekday fees.
- Sign a recipient created tax invoice (RCTI) agreement with NCPHN. This is a single form requiring the signature of a practice owner or delegate. This will allow NCPHN to pay you for after hour sessions without you needing to provide an invoice (practices who have participated in programs with NCPHN before will already have one of these).
- Help to review the initiative by sharing information with NCPHN and the local health district on patient volumes during the additional sessions over the four-week period. This information will be aggregated and will not identify activity at any individual practice.
- We have received advice from Medicare that if a GP would like to participate but their practice does not have the capacity to open, it is possible for them to support another practice to stay open by using their existing provider number as a locum. Usually this is limited to two weeks, but, because of the emergency, if a GP wants to do the four weeks at an open practice, we can negotiate a two-week extension with the Department of Health.
- In heavily affected areas where staffing is too stretched to keep a roster of practices open, or should the situation worsen in some areas in coming weeks, it may make more sense to ‘pool’ staffing in an area and keep one practice open after hours. We are happy to assist with organising this if needed.
If your practice is short-staffed as a result of the impact of fire, perhaps you could arrange to buddy with a neighbouring practice to temporarily accept patient overflow. Your NCPHN General Practice Support Officer could assist with organising this if needed.
- If your practice can participate, please fill in the electronic form below by close of business on Wednesday 20 November.
- A North Coast PHN General Practice Quality Improvement Support Officer will be in touch to confirm which hours you can open and perhaps coordinate this across a district.
- Sign and email an RCTI to Libby Mackintosh Sallaway at firstname.lastname@example.org. Click here to download an RCTI form.
- North Coast PHN will make payments in two instalments – one at the halfway point and the second at the completion of involvement.
- At the end of the four weeks, we will aggregate the information on patient volume during the additional hours and invite you to participate in a review of the effectiveness of the initiative.