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National GP Training Program Underway

Thanks to national health reform, the Australian government is making significant efforts to increase the primary care doctor workforce across the country, with a focus on rural areas. This year, 900 doctors have started the Australian General Practice Training program; 45 percent of these physicians are in rural Australia. By 2014, the program will support a total of 1,200 GP training positions across the country, double the number of positions in 2007. Australian Health Minister Nicola Roxon also announced that through the Prevocational General Practice Placements Program, 897 junior doctors this year will complete 12-week placements in GP practices. Minister Roxon said the programs highlight the Australian government’s commitment to primary care.

Additional reforms in Australia have recently elevated the status of primary care. For instance, primary care physicians in Australia serve as a kind of gatekeeper, meaning that patients can access most specialist services and hospitals only by first consulting a primary care doctor. And for about 80 percent of consultations in Australia, primary care doctors do not charge a copayment. Australia has also implemented certain payment reform measures, mainly through the introduction of payment-for-quality schemes, which aim to improve the management of chronic diseases, engage in preventative health interventions, and encourage high-quality care in general practice.

Even before health reform, Australia had a comparatively larger primary care workforce than the United States. As of 2007, Australia had 112 primary care doctors per 100,000 people compared to only 87 per 100,000 in the United States. However, with the passing of the Affordable Care Act, the United States can also expect a stronger primary care system. The new health reform legislation includes provisions for enhanced reimbursement rates for primary care doctors who see Medicare and Medicaid patients, innovative delivery models such as patient-centered medical homes, and a stimulus package to support the training of more than 16,000 new primary care providers over the next five years.

Sources:$File/nr052.pdf (subscription required)  (subscription required)

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