The AMA says the cost of medical dressings and treating chronic wounds could be mitigated through a targeted investment that could potentially save the health system $203.4 million over the next four years.
The organisation has released a new report - Solutions to the chronic wound problem in Australia - that it says reveals the extent to which chronic wound care is a poorly understood and under-funded public health issue.
It says studies indicate that chronic wounds affect 450,000 Australians and cost $3 billion each year.
The AMA is calling on the federal government to provide more support for GPs to provide high-quality wound care for patients through the establishment of a national scheme to fund medical dressings for chronic wounds and extra Medicare funding to cover the unmet costs of providing care for patients suffering chronic wounds.
AMA vice president Dr Danielle McMullen says the analysis shows investing $23.4 million over four years to deliver best practice wound care for diabetic foot ulcers, arterial leg ulcers, and venous leg ulcers would save the health system $203.4 million.
“This is a no brainer for a government desperate to cut the deficit. I don’t know of many investments where for every $1.00 you spend, the return is $8.36, but this is the case with evidence-based wound care.”
Dr McMullen said the plan would also improve access to GPs with Medicare funding for wound care freeing up around 148,000 consultations in the first year, and 162,000 consultations by the fourth year.
“As GPs, we see some terrible consequences for patients if a wound isn’t managed properly, like amputations at the worst and nasty infections at least. They can take months or even years to heal and these are totally avoidable.
“At the moment Medicare doesn’t cover the cost of the dressings we need to treat chronic wounds correctly, so doctors are either bearing the costs themselves or are forced to pass on the cost to patients, and that’s not something we like doing.
“There is a lack of awareness about the significance of chronic wounds in Australia, which means vulnerable patients, mostly older Australians, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples, or patients with other chronic conditions, often suffer in silence and fall through the cracks in our health system.
“The government often mentions its inherited trillion-dollar debt, so it should be looking for smart investments which will save the health system money and deliver better health outcomes for patients at the same time,” said Dr McMullen.