THE STATES and royal commission staff argue aged care residents do not have adequate access to GPs but the federal health department disagrees.
Federal health department secretary Glenys Beauchamp said there will be some people in residential aged care facilities who do not have the same level of access to primary health care as others in the community.
But she said aged care residents overall were receiving significant access to those services, as evidenced by data including an increase in the number of GPs providing services in residential facilities.
"Access to GPs in a global sense doesn't seem to be an issue," Ms Beauchamp told the aged care royal commission on Thursday.
But senior health department representatives from NSW, Queensland and South Australia disagreed.
The NSW Ministry of Health's Dr Nigel Lyons said people living in residential aged care facilities do not currently have adequate access to primary health care.
"NSW Health staff have observed inconsistency across RACFs in access to GPs, with some areas, particularly regional, rural and remote areas, having a significant lack of GP coverage," Dr Lyons said in his royal commission statement.
Queensland Health director-general Dr John Wakefield said Medicare rebates were not sufficient enough to enable adequate access to primary health care or support continuity of care for aged care residents.
He said only residents with very high care needs received adequate funding for primary health care services.
SA Health chief executive Christopher McGowan also argued people living in residential aged care facilities do not have adequate access to primary health care.
The royal commission has been told there is a lack of access to GPs as well as specialists, with both aged care residents and older people living in the community experiencing difficulties.
Senior counsel assisting the commission Peter Gray QC said there was a pattern of evidence before the inquiry showing primary health care needs in residential aged care facilities were not being adequately met.
The week-long Canberra hearing wraps up on Friday with witnesses including health department officials from Victoria, Tasmania, the ACT and Northern Territory.
Australian Associated Press
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