GP consultation not needed for jab rebate (UPDATED)

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There will be no minimum face-to-face requirements for the MBS items, the DoH has confirmed.

FRIDAY AFTERNOON UPDATE: It’s been reported today that the DoH is revising the modules after complaints that they were too general for GPs experienced in immunisation, and that GPs would get their own more tailored training.

The long-awaited MBS item descriptions for the COVID vaccination will be released in the coming days, with Department of Health officials confirming there will be no minimum time or face-to-face requirement for claiming the temporary MBS numbers.

GP practices will find out early next week if they have been accepted to participate in the early stages of the program.

Dr Lucas de Toca, acting first assistant secretary for the Primary Care Response to COVID-19 at the Department of Health, said in an online update that the item descriptions would not include any requirements for GPs to attend to patients face-to-face. In addition, any record-keeping would not have to be undertaken directly by the general practitioner, or other medical practitioner.

Tomorrow, GPs can expect a list of Frequently Asked Questions regarding the 16 temporary COVID vaccination items to be published by the Department of Health.

Dr de Toca confirmed this would be followed by the full item descriptors, to be released in the next couple of days.

“The actual face-to-face delivery of the service can be undertaken by other members of the multidisciplinary team – suitably qualified and authorised health professionals – [but] the GP or other medical practitioner needs to be on site and take responsibility for the overall service as they claim it,” he said.

The announcement has put to rest rumours among general practitioners that they would be required to consult each patient face-to-face to be eligible to bill the relevant COVID vaccination item for their practice.

However, Dr de Toca said the lack of minimum requirements in the descriptions would not preclude GPs from performing relevant face-to-face consults with more complex patients.

“The GP might [also] want to get themselves involved in some practices, in [other practices vaccination] might just be all done by the GP and in others, patients might be more suitably attended by other members of the team and the GP might not have any face-to-face contact,” he said.

But Dr de Toca said all GPs responsible for providing the services would have to adhere to minimum record-keeping requirements.

“There needs to be a record of the attendance, a record of the eligibility of the patient to receive the vaccine, any clinical history that contains details that are relevant to the attendance and enough information in the record so that another practitioner can provide ongoing care as it relates to the COVID-19 vaccines,” he said.

But these notes can be collected by other members of the multidisciplinary team assisting in the vaccine administration.

Has your EOI been accepted?

Practices who submitted an EOI to participate in the national COVID vaccination program have been eagerly awaiting confirmation from the Department of Health since applications closed earlier this month.

Over 5000 GP clinics submitted an EOI to participate in administering the AstraZeneca vaccine, including 130 GP respiratory clinics and more than 100 Aboriginal community-controlled health services.

Primary Health Networks, on behalf of the DoH, will be notifying successful practices early next week by email if they are able to administer the AZ vaccine.

But of these, Dr de Toca said only a “handful” of practices will be selected to join the rollout from the immediate start of phase one, with plans to rapidly expand the other practices when supplies are more certain.

“We live in a reality in which we are constrained by dose availability and we expect that there will be significant increases [to doses] in mid to late March when domestic production of the Astra Zeneca vaccine kicks in,” he said. “That will give us certainty to be able to stand up practices and to be confident that they will be able to have the throughput required to be viable.”

Are the training modules too general?

Dr Allison Jones, acting assistant secretaryfor the Primary Care Response to COVID-19 at the Department of Health, said while the online training modules for the COVID vaccine were estimated to take up to four hours to complete, more seasoned immunisation providers might be able to complete it quicker.

“We know that others have done the training a lot quicker if they already have background knowledge and have been in the practice of delivering multi-dose vials previously,” she said.

Dr Jones said the length of the training modules was mainly reflective of the incredibly broad audience that these modules were geared towards.

“As you can imagine, with our surge workforce, a number of trainee nurses and a really wide range of people coming on board who might not have done immunisations recently and may or may not have experience with multidose vials ­– but are otherwise accredited to give immunisations – it really does need to cover for all of the lowest common denominators there,” she said. Dr Jones also reminded anyone who has already undergone the online training that they will also be required to complete the vaccine specific module (depending on whether they are administering the AZ or Pfizer vaccine), which is set to go live by tomorrow.

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