Home medicines delivery, telehealth support extended

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The government is investing more than $2 billion towards extending COVID-19 health measures for a further six months

The Federal Government is providing more than $2 billion to extend a range of COVID-19 health measures for a further six months, to 31 March 2021.

Medicare-subsidised telehealth and pathology services, GP-led respiratory clinics, home medicines delivery, public and private hospital services will all be extended, as well as further investments in PPE.

“By providing telehealth and home delivery medicine services we are reducing the risk of exposure to COVID-19 in the community while also supporting people in isolation to get the care they need,” said Prime Minister Scott Morrison.

Health Minister Greg Hunt said over 30 million telehealth consultations have been conducted since they were brought in due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

He said these have “protected the health and wellbeing of Australians, and protected our health workers and the viability of their practices”.

“Our Governments response to the pandemic brought forward a 10 year plan on telehealth within 10 days,” Minister Hunt added.

Patients will continue to have access to Medicare-subsidised telehealth for general practitioner, nursing, midwifery, allied health and allied mental health services.

Free home delivery of essential medicines by local pharmacists will also continue for those eligible for this service, including confirmed or suspected COVID-19 cases, people aged over 70; Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people aged over 50; people with chronic health conditions or who are immunocompromised; and parents with new babies and people who are pregnant.

So far the Home Medicines Service has delivered more than one million medicines to patients’ homes at no additional cost to patients, said Minister Hunt.

The telehealth and medicines delivery provisions originally commenced in March for an initial period of six months.

Pharmacist-specific telehealth for medication reviews was made possible since April, however this is not a Medicare-subsidised service.

The Pharmacy Guild of Australia welcomed the announcement, telling AJP in a statement that it recognises the ongoing need to support telehealth and home delivery of medicines in the COVID environment, as an aid to social distancing and to minimise infection spread.

“The facilitation of telehealth and medicine home deliveries where required has served patients well during the COVID-19 emergency,” said a Guild spokesperson.

However they added, “the fact remains that the best form of care is face-to-face contact with a health professional.

“It is not in patients’ interests to promote telehealth with home delivery as the norm where contact with a local doctor or pharmacist is available.”

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