Victorian Government Considers Telehealth Consultations in Euthanasia

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Victorian lawmakers are reviewing current telehealth restrictions with plans to extend the boundaries to provide assisted dying. Currently, Federal laws prevent GPs from discussing euthanasia with their patients over online communication means.

When these rules were first established, they were supposed to tackle cyberbullying and keep suicide rates down. However, advocates of Victoria’s proposed euthanasia laws affirm that assisted dying is not a form of suicide.

Speaking on the subject, Justice Party MP Stuart Grimley had this to say: “Voluntary euthanasia and telehealth are both part of our future and here to stay.” He also made it clear that the bill would protect doctors who consulted on euthanasia from prosecution. “We are seeking to tighten that loophole,” he said.

Only GPs who are trained in euthanasia practices can consult on the subject. However, they may be inaccessible in Victorian country areas, making it difficult for patients to discuss their needs.

The Justice Party also intends to change rules surrounding residency. “If you have lived in Australia for more than three years and for all intents and purposes are an Australian but don’t hold a permanent residency visa, you shouldn’t be stopped from accessing VAD,” Mr Grimley added.

St Kilda GP Dr Nick Carr is a strong advocate for the change in residency laws and has been ever since his patient committed suicide under horrible circumstances.

The patient, Julian, had terminal pancreatic cancer and was in severe pain. Unfortunately, he was not eligible for VAD despite having lived in Australia for 40 years and being a pensioner.

“He was distraught and in desperation took his own life; exactly the kind of outcome the VAD law was intended to prevent,” Dr Carr said.

Applicants to VAD must be Victorian residents, aged over 18 and be determined by two doctors to have a terminal illness with intolerable pain that will likely cause death within 6 months or 12 months if it’s a neurodegenerative condition.

Read: GPs Must Update Registration to Continue Receiving Medicare Benefits

Government Promises to Boost Vaccine Deliveries to GPs

Health Minister Greg Hunt has announced that the government will increase the number of vaccines delivered to GPs as more doses become available. “We always said that as supplies became available and as we had confidence in those supplies and sufficient contingency then we would make that available and that’s exactly what we have done,” he said.

GPs receiving lower volumes - 50 doses - will now get their doses tripled to 150. Practises with medium volume - 100 - will receive 200 doses.

The news of increased doses was well-received by everyone, including several pharmacy organisations. Speaking on the news, a Pharmacy Guild of Australia spokesperson said, “The decision to increase Covid-19 vaccination doses to GPs is a welcome sign that supply issues have been resolved. The government should immediately begin distributing doses to pharmacies.”

Mr Hunt also addressed the latest community cases detected in NSW and stressed that contact tracing had already begun. “We know the strength of the NSW system, the absolute global gold standard,” he said.

Read: Pharmacists may not be involved in vaccine roll-out until June

People Over 50 Can Now Get AstraZeneca Covid-19 Vaccine

As the vaccination plan rolls into phase two, citizens and permanent residents between 50 and 70 years will be able to receive dosages from special mass vaccination hubs set up in some states. Patients can also schedule appointments with select GPs from 17th May.

States like Melbourne have opened 6 mass vaccination centres where people over 50 can book and receive the jab. The vaccines are also available in any one of 13 respiratory clinics in Sydney. Plans are underway to open more mass vaccination centres in Canberra and other states in Australia.

Clinical trials involving more than 57,000 people have concluded that the AstraZeneca Vaccine is safe and effective in all individuals, showing that both young and older adults had similar immune responses.

Read: Australians React to the AstraZeneca Vaccine

RACGP Shares Blueprint for Future GP Trainings

In the 20-page document, RACGP reveals a blueprint for future training programs for GPs. The blueprint highlights the organisation’s plan to attract and train more GPs across Australia, including in regional and rural Australia to improve access to quality primary care. It will also strengthen the promotion of general practice and rural generalist careers to early or emerging medical students and junior doctors.

The paper has been seen by the Federal Government and is now before the college membership for debate.

Read: Podcast Transcript: Joyce McSwan - Clinical Director of GCPHN Persistent Pain Program | Managing Director of PainWISE

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