As Queensland hospitals grapple with devastating ramping, bed shortages, and delays, there has never been a more crucial time for the state to invest in general practice to keep people healthy in the community, says the Royal Australian College of GPs (RACGP).
A perfect storm of factors, including an aging population, epidemic of chronic disease, and acute workforce shortages, is putting increasing pressure on Queensland’s hospitals, prompting the RACGP to make its first Budget submission to the state government.
RACGP Queensland Chair Dr Cathryn Hester said investment in general practice is key to reducing pressure on Queensland's hospital system.
“Queensland’s health crisis is costing lives. There’s never been a more important time for our state to invest in general practice – GPs keep people healthy and out of hospital,” she said.
“The Queensland Government’s recent announcement of an initial five-point plan to ease ramping, including working with general practices to help keep people out of hospital, is a step in the right direction. It shows the government recognises the essential role general practice plays in keeping people healthy and reducing pressure on tertiary care.
“However, more needs to be done and the initiatives in our budget submission will go further towards reducing pressure on Queensland’s hospitals, which are struggling with devastating ramping, bed shortages, and delays, and improving the health of Queenslanders.”
The RACGP’s budget proposals will:
Improve co-ordination and cooperation between hospitals and primary care so Queenslanders can get the care they need in the community and preventable emergency department visits and hospitalisations are reduced;
Attract more GPs to train, work and live in regional and rural Queensland through subsidised training; and
Support Queensland parents and their health teams to access essential health records more easily by developing a digital Child Health Record.
The RACGP Queensland Chair said: “Better collaboration between primary care providers and hospitals will help ensure people can access care in general practice or GP-led urgent care clinics, when they don’t need to go to hospital. This will reduce the burden on our hospitals, as well as reducing the substantial costs of preventable hospitalisations. One in 20 hospitalisations in Queensland were preventable in 2020 – and if they had been prevented, the state would have saved up to $1.07 billion.*
“Attracting more GPs to train, work and live in regional and rural Queensland will mean more Queenslanders can access the care they need to live healthier lives, which will also reduce pressure on our hospitals. Providing a financial incentive by subsidising our Fellowship Support Program for GPs to train in regional and rural Queensland will get more GPs working in the communities that need them. And GPs who train in rural areas are more likely to choose to live there, so this investment would make a difference in the immediate future, and long-term.
“We’re also calling for Queensland to invest in a Digital Child Health Record to ensure our state’s children get the healthiest possible start to life. Currently children’s health checks are recorded in a hard copy book, which is hard to access, and easily lost. A digital record will enable a child’s GP or other specialist to easily access their health records so they can provide safe, high-quality care.
“As RACGP Queensland’s new Chair, I look forward to working with the Queensland Government to address the current crisis and ensure everyone in our state can access the care they need to live a healthier and longer life, no matter where they live or what they earn.”
* Australian Institute of Health and Welfare. Admitted patient care 2021-22: Costs and Funding.
The Royal Australian College of General Practitioners (RACGP) is the peak representative organisation for general practice, the backbone of Australia’s health system. We set the standards for general practice, facilitate lifelong learning for GPs, connect the general practice community, and advocate for better health and wellbeing for all Australians.