From knitting to lawnmowers: more GPs slam Amcal pathology

lawnmower looking ominous

Pharmacy pathology screening has been likened to “getting your car serviced at the lawn mower shop” by a leading GP

Dr Edwin Kruys, Acting President of the Royal Australian College of General Practitioners, has taken to Twitter as well as his Doctor’s Bag blog to condemn Sigma’s pathology screening initiative, which rolled out last week through the Amcal network.

Speaking on behalf of the RACGP, Dr Kruys said that “While we welcome and encourage other healthcare providers to contribute to patient care, your GP clinic is the most appropriate place to order a pathology test, not a pharmacy”.

He said that pharmacists add value when it comes to advice and information about medicines, but “ordering a test through a pharmacy rather than your local GP creates risks for patients including fragmentation of care, unnecessary duplication of tests, confusion about the interpretation of the results, and increased out of pocket costs”.

He expressed disappointment that Sigma had not consulted with the RACGP over the move.

He wrote on Doctor’s Bag that “chemist shops” are the wrong place to get a blood test.

“A pathology test should be recommended based on a medical assessment which may include your personal medical history, symptoms and a physical examination,” he wrote.

“Pharmacists do not have the diagnostic skills required to provide this kind of care safely.

“Amcal customers will be paying out-of-pocket and are not eligible for a Medicare rebate. For example, a vitamin D blood test will cost $89.50, a ‘fatigue screening’ $149.50 and a ‘general health screening’ $219.50.”

He says the Medicare system reimburses patients for a range of pathology tests after an appropriate assessment by a doctor.

“The standard packages sold by AMCAL may not include the tests that are required for your unique circumstances or health problems.

“We really need better integration of health services in Australia. We need pharmacies to work together with GP teams, not introduce more commercially driven duplication and fragmentation of services.

“Ordering a pathology test through the chemist is like getting your car checked at the lawn mower shop. Nothing wrong with the lawn mower shop but it just isn’t the right place.”

Dr Kruys is not the only high-profile doctor to speak out against the tests: AMA president Dr Michael Gannon attracted significant criticism for telling pharmacists to “stick to their knitting” over the initiative.

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