• 23rd Jan 2023

Paramedics to play ‘vital role’ in revamped Medicare model

Story published in The Australian.

Paramedics to play ‘vital role’ in revamped Medicare model

By Natasha Robinson

Paramedics are ready to play a “vital role” in primary healthcare as the federal government moves to overhaul Australia’s 40-year-old system of Medicare funding to directly employ the skills of allied health workers working in multidisciplinary teams.

Federal Health Minister Mark Butler has flagged his intention to fundamentally modernise Medicare to overhaul the fee-for-service model that provides funding exclusively to GPs so that nurses, allied health workers and even paramedics can work within their full scope of practice within general practice and primary care.

As healthcare systems around the world overhaul their models to integrate a wide range of health practitioners into their primary care systems, paramedics have played an increasingly vital role, such as in Britain, where more than 2000 of them are employed in general practice.

“We keep talking about how we get more GPs from overseas and how we incentivise them and all these things when actually there’s the nurses, paramedics and allied health practitioners sitting there ready to be utilised,” chief executive of the Australasian College of Paramedicine John Bruning said.

“The structure of the healthcare needs to completely change.”

While most people think of paramedics in the context of emergencies involving ambulances, primary care is well within the scope of practice of these health professionals, who have a similar skillset to nurses but are also highly trained to perform quickly and calmly in urgent situations.

One surgery to provide a model of what the future may look like is the Dianella Family Medical Practice in suburban Perth, which provides an urgent care after-hours service alongside its regular clinic.

The practice employs Alecka Miles, one of the first paramedics in the country to be employed in a GP practice, who works in the clinic alongside GPs, practice nurses, a diabetes educator, a podiatrist and a physiotherapist. It’s exactly the kind of team-based model Labor wants to usher in around the country as a solution to the crisis in general practice that has seen bulk billing rates plummet and doctors shutting clinics.

“As paramedics, we see so much of the healthcare system while in people’s homes and as you develop as a practitioner, you start to understand there’s lots of care we can do in the home and community that can keep people out of hospital,” said Dr Miles, who worked as an ambulance para¬medic for the first 10 years of her career and has a PhD in paramedicine. She is also a course co-ordinator in community paramedicine at Edith Cowan University.

Practice manager Julie Stojcevski said Dr Miles was an enormous asset, particularly during urgent presentations that were frequent in the clinic, such as patients with chest pains, anaphylactic shock or severe wounds after a fall; her skills meant many of those patients ¬could be triaged in primary care and not need to go to ED.

Read article online at The Australian

Image: Alecka Miles, Community Paramedic, with patient. Image credit: The Australian

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