The Royal Australian College of General Practitioners (RACGP) welcomes news of the Australian Government’s recent commitment of $777 million to fund its share of a renewed National Partnership Agreement on Closing the Gap in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander health outcomes until June 2016.
The announced funding will significantly further efforts to close the gap on Indigenous health disadvantage, however the College notes that funding commitments are now required from all states and territories in order to ensure vital programs and services are not at risk from 30 June 2013.
Dr Liz Marles, RACGP President said, “whether it is today or in the coming weeks, the nation’s eyes will be on COAG in hope that leaders from each of the states and territories will follow suit of the Federal Government by recommitting to new funding that will ensure long-term Close the Gap initiatives can be fulfilled.”
“The RACGP is proud to support efforts to tackle health disparities between Indigenous and non-Indigenous Australians and acknowledges the daily work of many of its members to improve health outcomes for their Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander patients,” said Dr Liz Marles.
Associate Professor Brad Murphy, Chair of the RACGP National Faculty of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Health said, “Sustained commitment of funding and resources by all levels of government is cornerstone to the ongoing success of these efforts to Close the Gap in healthcare inequality for our Nation’s Indigenous population.
“If we are able to continue this focused response to the health needs of our Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander patients the resulting opportunities within the general practice setting will result in better resourced general practice teams and ultimately better healthcare for all Australians,” A/Prof Murphy said.
There are a number of initiatives GPs and general practice teams can implement to further efforts to close the gap:
- Register for the practice incentives program (PIP) Indigenous Health Incentive
- Enable all members of the practice team to participate in locally relevant cultural awareness training
- Create systems to identify Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander patients
- Register eligible patients for the PBS Closing the Gap Co-Payment enabling them to access their medications at reduced cost
- Perform an Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Health Assessment
- Use appropriate Medicare access program for Allied Health, Practice Nurses and Aboriginal Health Workers
As part of the RACGP Standards for general practices (4th edition) general practice teams need to demonstrate they routinely record the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander status in active patient health records. “Without practice awareness, a patient who identifies as Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander would not benefit from measures available under the Practice Incentives Program Indigenous Health Incentive (PIP IHI) and the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme (PBS) co-payment measure,” Dr Marles said.
“The RACGP continues its commitment to raising general practitioners’ awareness of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander health needs and their cultural context, and to advocating for culturally appropriate health delivery systems which improve health outcomes.”
“It is now time for Australia’s states and territories to recommit to a renewed agreement to continue long-term funding for the COAG National Partnership Agreement on Closing the Gap in Indigenous Health Outcomes,” Dr Marles said.