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Politicians heap praise on family doctors, but not funds

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Federal and State politicians have lauded the central role played by family doctors in ensuring Australians receive world class health care, but have held back on commitments to increase support for GPs.

Federal Health Minister Tanya Plibersek and her Victorian counterpart David Davis used the occasion of AMA Family Doctor Week 2013 to praise the service provided by the nation’s general practitioners.

Ms Plibersek said GPs were the backbone of the universal health system.

“The family doctor is a great institution,” the Minister said. “[They are] a trusted source of advice and care, often beyond the clinical. It is their genuine, enduring, and intimate relationship with patients that helps make their clinical impact so powerful.”

Ms Plibersek said the Government was “shifting the centre of gravity” of the health system toward primary care in recognition of the vital work GPs performed in caring for their patients, including pre-empting their health needs through preventive care and managing the care of those with complex and chronic conditions.

“We need a health system that, where possible, helps keep people well and out of hospital,” she said. “That’s why our Government is shifting the centre of gravity in our health system towards primary care – with general practitioners at the very heart.”

But Mr Davis criticised Commonwealth policies that he said hampered the work of GPs.

He threw his support behind AMA calls for increased support for GPs to prevent and treat chronic illness and for unspent funds from the $600 million GP Super Clinics program to be directed to investment in upgrades for existing medical practices.

“Supporting existing practices to improve their facilities, expand services, and provide opportunities for teaching and training helps more patients than concentrating the investment in a small number of locations,” Mr Davis said. “Better access to GPs helps patients with chronic conditions avoid hospital and aged care facilities.”

Adrian Rollins