The AMA has cheered the decision by Sonic Healthcare to withdraw from pharmacy-based screening programs

The “Super Sonic decision” is in the best interest of patients, AMA president Dr Michael Gannon said today.

Sonic Healthcare and its subsidiary, SmartHealth, withdrew on Thursday from Sigma’s pathology program, which was being offered through its Amcal network, following a backlash against the initiative from doctors.

“The primary health care system in Australia is built on a medical model of life-long continuity of care, preferably with a usual GP or general practice,” Dr Gannon says.

“This is the model being championed by the Government with its Health Care Homes trial.

“Fragmenting care by allowing non-medical health professionals to attempt to do the work of highly trained doctors is dangerous and irresponsible.

“It puts the health of patients at risk, and it increases the out-of pocket health costs for families.

“The pharmacy screening tests can cost between $25 and $220, with no rebate under the Medicare Benefits Schedule for the patient.

“It takes years of training and specialised clinical judgement to determine whether a patient needs a pathology test, and to interpret and manage the test outcome. That is work best done by a GP.

“Health checks, screening activities, and diagnostic tests should only be conducted if they are clinically indicated, backed by evidence, and cost effective. They must benefit patients and not incur unnecessary costs. GPs are best placed to make these decisions.”

Dr Gannon had previously come under fire for telling pharmacists to “stick to their knitting” over the screenings.

He has now tweeted that the initiative was a “wasteful gouge”.

Acting RACGP president Dr Edwin Kruys, who had criticised the screening service by saying it was like “getting your car serviced at the lawn mower shop,” also praised the decision.