Update on services provided at Residential Aged Care Facilities

Tallowwood Health believes that people living in Residential Aged Care Facilities deserve access to timely and high-quality medical care. However, in recent years, this has become increasingly difficult due to increasing complexity, reduced funding, and a reduced workforce. As a result, these challenges have forced many practices and general practitioners to stop working in aged care.

To tackle this issue and continue to care for our community, Tallowwood Health implemented a two-pronged strategy. First, in 2023 we collaborated with multiple organizations to lead improvement efforts across Tamworth. Second, we’re modernizing how doctors deliver individual patient care, making it more sustainable and of better quality.

The community aspect of the project involved consultation with multiple general practices, doctors, aged care facilities, NSW Ambulance, the Primary Health Network, and the Local Health District. Key outcomes from this were the establishment of a Nurse Practitioners’ role, improvements in communication pathways, implementation of telehealth, and exploration of sustainability for General Practice. All are aimed at improving patient care and General Practitioner engagement.

Within our practice, we carefully evaluated our patients’ needs and the available resources then made proactive decisions for the future. With this update, we have aligned our RACF services with services offered to the general public and clarified what and how those services are delivered.

Key points

  • There will be a great emphasis on scheduling, with the goal of being comprehensive and high-value. This would be coordinated between the patient, next-of-kin, doctor, and facility. It is expected that the majority of care (and paperwork) is completed during these appointments.
  • Due to the increasing and unpredictable demand for services on a given day, we cannot guarantee that a doctor can physically attend the facility at unscheduled times. We expect to see a greater usage of telehealth services to fill this gap, and there is the safety net of the ambulance and hospital services.
  • To manage the deficiencies in Medicare funding, a mixed billing approach will be introduced. Scheduled routine and telehealth consultations will continue to be bulk billed. Admissions, unscheduled consultations, and services not funded by Medicare will attract a private fee. These changes are essential for us to continue to offer a sustainable service.
  • Doctors working at Tallowwood Health are independent contractors. Therefore, any agreement for the ongoing care of a patient is between an individual patient and an individual doctor. Tallowwood Health supports that relationship through nursing and administrative support but does not take responsibility for the care of the patient, should that doctor withdraw their services.