ACEM calls for Closing the Gap co-payment measure to be expanded to EDs

As Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull delivers the 10th annual Closing the Gap (CTG) report to parliament, the peak body for emergency medicine in Australia and New Zealand has called for the CTG Indigenous chronic disease co-payment measure to be expanded to incorporate eligible emergency departments. CTG prescriptions attract a lower or nil patient co-payment for Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme medicines.

“We are missing a really important health intervention here,” Australasian College for Emergency Medicine (ACEM) President Dr Simon Judkins said.

“The ability for hospital emergency departments and emergency physicians to provide Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander patients with CTG scripts would improve health care access, decrease service duplication, reduce delays in care and ultimately assist with management of chronic disease and its complications to improve health outcomes, for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples.”

While Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people represent approximately 3% of Australia’s population, nationally, they account for almost 6% of all emergency department presentations. Emergency departments are open 24 hours a day, seven days a week, and provide the mainstay of after-hours care outside the remote environment.

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander patients present to emergency departments for a variety of concerns including numerous acute complications or forerunners of chronic diseases. Emergency physicians cannot replace the central role of General Practitioners and Aboriginal Medical Services in chronic disease management, but they do play a vital role in providing targeted quality acute medical care at the time of presentation.

At present, emergency departments and emergency physicians are not eligible to provide scripts to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander patients under the CTG co-payment measure. Emergency physicians have two options in this instance – write a script or dispense the medication from the hospital. If a script is written, the patient will subsequently incur any cost, while for dispensed medications the cost is borne by the hospital.

Dr Liz Mowatt, Chair of ACEM’s Indigenous Health Subcommittee, said emergency departments are a key contact point to the mainstream healthcare/hospital system for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander patients, providing linkage points for health promotion activities and primary health care alongside the immediate care provided.

“Given the higher rates of chronic disease, complications and particularly hospital presentations, ACEM considers it a significant disparity that emergency departments are not eligible to participate in the provision of CTG scripts,” Dr Mowatt said. “The ability for emergency department staff to prescribe under the CTG script scheme would contribute to providing equitable access to essential medicines and treatment for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander emergency department patients.”

Contact

Andre Khoury
ACEM Public Affairs Manager
03 8679 8813
0498 068 023
[email protected]