Doctors cheer as Amcal pathology scrapped

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.

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  1. Kevin Hayward

    Cannot see the point of this conversation. Home medical tests are available freely on line for everything from allergy to strepA, I found a dozen or so within a few minutes. So instead of picking out Pharmacists to vindicate, why not spread it around and have a go at our favourite on line retailers too?

  2. Kate Tog

    Oh and of course no mention of the money which gp clinics take in as rent and referrals for having a pathology collection centre on the premises. Heaven forbid a patient took his or her gp written pathology request and had it processed at an Amcal collection point. It’s not so much about the medical knowledge (hospital pharmacists are fantastic at reading and interpreting pathology) as it is about just plain old revenue.

    • Jarrod McMaugh

      To be fair on this point I don’t think the plan was for collections points to be set up in AMCAL pharmacies, only that the pharmacists would have specific laboratory referrals for patients.

      • Kate Tog

        Are you sure?

        • Jarrod McMaugh

          No but I don’t recall reading that as part of the plan, and the outlay to achieve that would have been a much much bigger financial consideration.

    • Usman Hameed

      Definitely it was all about money. A non bulk-billing doctor charges $80 first to pathology tests, then another $80 odd to discuss the report a few days later. As far as interpretation of results are concerned, some doctors CAN be quite bad at it

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