Government to fund telehealth services in response to Coronavirus **If you feel overwhelmed we have put together a simplified (frequently updated) guide to current information for people in Australia with ME/CFS concerned about the Coronavirus. You can find this information here or via our 'News' page. https://www.emerge.org.au/blog/coronavirus-and-me-simplified-facts Thanks to Simone and Ricky B for putting this information together for us. On Wednesday 11th March, in a bid to contain the spread of the novel coronavirus (COVID-19), the Prime Minister announced that the government will fund new health measures under Medicare, including telehealth services and online prescriptions. These services will be available to those quarantined as a result of COVID-19, as well as the following at-risk groups for both coronavirus and non-coronavirus consultations: - People aged over 70- People with chronic diseases- Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people aged over 50- People who are immunocompromised- Pregnant people and - New parents with babies The Prime Minister said that these patient groups have been included in these measures because they “are at greater risk from the virus and treatment [at] home will minimise their risk of exposure. This will be available to these groups for non-coronavirus consultations as a general health measure.” This service will be available from Friday March 13, and will be available for six months (though that may be extended, depending on the spread of COVID-19). In addition, the government will fund a home medicine service, which will allow patients to have prescriptions filled online or remotely and medicines delivered to their homes. This service will be available to those quarantined due to the virus and those in at-risk groups. We welcome these important steps from the government. We recognise that people with ME/CFS and other chronic illnesses are at higher risk from the novel coronavirus and measures to allow them to reduce their exposure are vital. We are however concerned as to whether people with ME/CFS will be included - as they absolutely should be - in this initiative due to the many problems patients experience with diagnosing the illness and because of poor guidance for GPs, and their consequent poor knowledge of the disease. It is not yet clear how patients will access these services or how chronic diseases will be defined, but we will provide more information when it is available. We also recognise that telehealth services and online prescriptions are much needed by the ME/CFS community, even when there isn’t a viral outbreak. For the past year, we’ve been advocating strongly for the introduction of Medicare rebates for these services for people with chronic illnesses like ME/CFS. Now that they’ve been introduced, we will be lobbying for them to remain in place for people with chronic illnesses once the COVID-19 outbreak is over. Read the Prime Minister’s announcement: https://www.pm.gov.au/media/24-billion-health-plan-fight-covid-19 Department of Health’s fact sheet about the telehealth services: https://www.health.gov.au/sites/default/files/documents/2020/03/covid-19-national-health-plan-primary-care-bulk-billed-mbs-telehealth-services_0.pdf There is also a massive problem though because in the fine print it says "Patients in vulnerable groups can additionally see a health provider via telehealth for a non-COVID-19 matter if they have seen that provider face-to-face at least once in the previous 12 months". Therefore if you haven't been able to see any doctors for 12 months because you are bedridden/homebound, OR if you need to change doctors for any reason, you can't use this service at all. This means that these really great new telehealth options are not available to people with the greatest need for them - people who currently have no healthcare they can access at all. We are highly concerned about this and will be campaigning for this to change / be more inclusive.