Some good health news for a change! The Federal Government has announced it will extend subsidised telehealth sessions for an extra six months.
The telehealth scheme was originally due to finish up at the end of September but, according to the ABC, has been extended until next year as part of a $2 billion top-up in order to keep health services functioning during the COVID-19 pandemic.
This means Medicare-subsidised telehealth will still be available for GPs, nursing, midwifery, allied health and mental health services until March 31, 2021, making it easier for you to access healthcare without having to leave home if you’re unable to.
Telehealth has been “a revolution in health delivery,” said Health Minister Greg Hunt. “It was born from necessity but it’s delivered better health care for over 30 million consultations so far.
“In particular we know it’s been used for over 18 million regular consultations by general practitioners. It’s kept the patients safe, it’s kept the nurses safe, it’s kept the doctors safe.”
Essential specialist services like neurosurgery and geriatrician will also have access to telehealth going forward, with bulk billing and regular billing practices to continue. And this fresh injection of funds will also help support a number of ongoing health measures currently in place.
“There will be support for home medicine delivery, continued free COVID-19 pathology tests, as well as further personal protective equipment, respiratory clinics and the state and private hospital partnership agreement,” Hunt said.
Prime Minister Scott Morrison said that the $2 billion worth of funding would help to continue healthcare during the COVID-19 pandemic while limiting the risk of exposure to COVID-19.
“By providing telehealth and home delivery medicine services, we are reducing the risk of exposure of COVID-19 in the community while also supporting people in isolation to get the care they need,” Morrison said.
“Importantly this also includes mental health services, delivered over the phone, by trained specialists and GPs.”
The peak body for rural health in Australia, the National Rural Health Alliance, has welcomed this decision by the Government, given how difficult it can be to access healthcare in rural areas without the added stress of the pandemic.
“It can be difficult enough to access health care in some areas at the best of times, but especially once you add in the difficulties caused by the pandemic including border restrictions,” said National Rural Health Alliance CEO Dr Gabrielle O’Kane in a press release.
“Telehealth is vital to ensuring rural people can keep up their regular health checks during COVID-19 and ensure continuity of care.”
So, you can continue to have appointments with your health or mental health care professional over the phone or via video chat and it’ll be subsidised until at least March next year.