COVID vaccine jabs to be bulk billed

Doctors around the country will bulk bill COVID-19 vaccines.

While the Pfizer vaccine will be delivered in hospitals and Pfizer hubs due to the stringent storage refrigeration requirements GPs will be mostly responsible for administering up to 53 million doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine. Both COVID vaccines require two shots within 21 days.

Under the Medicare Benefits Schedule finalised on Friday, doctors will be paid $30.76 for the first consult and $24.25 for the second.

There will be an additional $10 incentive for practices to ensure both shots are delivered at the one surgery.

Expressions of interest for GP practices opened on Saturday with the hope up to 1000 practices would register.

Health Minister Greg Hunt said "early indications are that supply will far exceed our expectations which is fantastic".

GPs will mostly be administering the AstraZeneca vaccine seen here in production at CSL Broadmeadows.
GPs will mostly be administering the AstraZeneca vaccine seen here in production at CSL Broadmeadows.

Mr Hunt told The Sunday Telegraph delivery of the free vaccines must be bulk billed.

"It is to be universally bulk billed, we've said from the outset it will be free," he said.

It is most likely the larger practices will offer jabs as they have the medical personnel and the space to offer socially distanced environment to patients.

Dr Brian Morton, who runs a 10 doctor practice at Northbridge, said his practice was prepared to bulk bill and wear any extra costs.

"We are never really paid the true cost but this is a pandemic emergency so we will provide the service, but we will need a staff member to check in patient, a nurse and we need more space to keep people for the recommended 15 minutes after vaccination," Dr Morton said.

"The fee (on offer) if you are efficient enough, that should be enough recompense. But, if you are smaller practice with only two or three doctors, you are not going to be able to scale up, you need to do the paper work to get the vaccine, you need the space in the fridge to store it, for a small practice it may not be worth it."

Dr Karen Price, President of Royal Australian College of General Practitioners said doctors had argued the COVID vaccination program is not a standard consult.

"Whether or not that is sufficient to cover the costs of delivering that service is a question. The one thing I don't want for our members is they take a pay cut to do all that it costs to deliver the biggest public health delivery in Australia's recent history," Dr Price said.

President of the Royal Australian College of General Practitioners Dr Karen Price is concerned the COVID vaccine rollout might not be financially viable for some practices.
President of the Royal Australian College of General Practitioners Dr Karen Price is concerned the COVID vaccine rollout might not be financially viable for some practices.

"It is very different, this is not the flu vax roll out, this is a new vaccine, it requires two doses and there's a lot more recording and audit, but there's a lot of vaccine hesitancy because people are confused.

Dr Price said it will be up to individual practices to assess if they can provide viably provide the service.

Australian Medical Association president Dr Omar Khorshid said they had "worked very closely with the government to make sure the Medicare arrangements are going to underpin the successful rollout of the program".

"We are comfortable where it has landed. Any practice that feels it doesn't work for them presumably won't put in an expression of interest, it's not automatic and if they can't make it work financially, presumably they won't participate, but the majority will, we need to try and vaccinate 20 million people and we need the majority of general practice involved, " Dr Khorshid said.

Originally published as COVID vaccine jabs to be bulk billed



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