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Thursday, 13 September 1984
Page: 970

Senator REYNOLDS —I address my question to the Minister representing the Minister for Health. Is the Minister aware that some family doctors responsible for home visits to the elderly and disabled are concerned that more regular visits could be regarded as overservicing under the present Medicare guidelines? Can the Minister give an assurance that this situation is being reviewed so that , in line with the Government's policy, elderly and disabled people may receive necessary medical support to remain in the community rather than be forced into institutions?

Senator GRIMES —I have no direct knowledge of any review that is being conducted or is intended to be conducted in this area. Whether or not regular visits to elderly or disabled people at home are considered to be overservicing must be a matter for judgment in individual cases. Certainly, the Medicare regulations and the health regulations generally are not intended to prevent medical practitioners from treating their patients properly and visiting them as often as they need to be visited. I cannot recall in recent times many cases in which medical practitioners have been questioned for overservicing in the way they used to be when I first went into practice 20-odd years ago when it seemed to be quite a regular thing that doctors under the pensioner health service were hauled up to explain the frequency of their visits. Of course there will always be some medical practitioners-this applies to any profession-who will abuse a service of this type. However, I do not think that any conscientious doctor in this country need worry that he or she should restrict his or her visits to patients in any way because of the Medicare regulations. As Senator Reynolds said, it is the policy of this Government to ensure that more and more elderly people stay where they really want to be, and that is in their own homes. The only way to do this is to provide adequate services for them, and one of those services will always be a health service.