Anthony Albanese has promised to create a “strengthening Medicare fund” to make it easier and more affordable to see a GP.
The Opposition Leader has also promised grants to practices of up to $50,000 to carry out upgrades.
This $750m fund and $220m grant commitments have been welcomed by Australia’s powerful professional peak body for doctors ahead of its announcement on Saturday – a stark contrast to when it slammed Labor’s plan for 50 urgent care clinics last month after not being consulted.
The Australian Medical Association, which has been running a “modernise Medicare” campaign throughout the election, said Labor’s latest commitment would put general practice on a pathway to a more “sustainable” future.
“The primary care fund announced today by the ALP, if implemented, is a strong down payment that will help realise the recently completed 10-year primary healthcare plan – a plan which has remained completely unfunded by the government,” AMA president Omar Khorshid said, referencing a policy announced by Scott Morrison in 2019.
“The ALP’s primary care fund pledge will allow investment in programs that will improve access to services for patients, including GP after-hours services and the workforce incentives program.
“We welcome the ALP commitment to work with the AMA on the implementation of primary care reform.”
The new Medicare fund, which would cost $250m every 12 months from 2023-24 over three years, would aim to improve access to doctors and nurses and better manage complex conditions.
It would follow recommendations from a taskforce, chaired by the health minister, which would “immediately” decide on the priorities to fix what Labor says is a “GP crisis”.
A further $220m would go towards a GP grants program, allowing practices to upgrade IT systems, upskill staff, purchase new equipment and improve its infection control and ventilation.
Smaller practices would be able to get grants of up to $25,000, while larger GPs could receive a $50,000 one.
“Every day, everywhere I go, people talk to me about how it’s getting more and more difficult to see a doctor,” Mr Albanese said.
“General practice is the cornerstone of the Australian health system.
“Australians trust their GPs. It’s a vital relationship in ensuring all Australians get the quality health care they deserve.
“Only Labor has a plan to make it easier for Australians to see their GPs and to strengthen Medicare.”
In April, the AMA said it was unconvinced of Labor’s other plan, announced in the first week of the campaign, to develop 50 urgent care centres across Australia to ease pressure on emergency departments.
“These centres will do little to relieve the hospital logjam, will further fragment care and will unfairly compete with nearby general practices which, without this government funding, will not be able to keep their doors open after hours,” Dr Khorshid said at the time.