Meet with the Minister | Consumers Health Forum of Australia (CHF)

Meet with the Minister | Consumers Health Forum of Australia (CHF)

Consumers Health Forum of Australia (CHF) is Australia’s leading advocate on consumer health care issues.

On 5 August, they successfully hosted ABC “Q&A” style webinar with the new Minister for Health and Aged Care, the Hon. Mark Butler MP.

I was eager to absorb the Minister’s vision and strategy, particularly in the area of providing evidence based and inclusive healthcare for Post Viral conditions like Long Covid and Myalgic Encephalomyelitis (ME).

This blog is to share my thoughts after the webinar.

In the introduction, Hon. Mark Butler shared that the Commonwealth put in a focused response to Long Covid. And an estimated 5% of Covid patients experience Long Covid. (8:06)

Nadia Moffat asked about Telehealth if the Commonwealth Government has a plan to expand the service and how would it look like. The minister suggested seeing evidence on Telehealth research to consider the future plan. (45:00)

Christine Gunson asked what action can be taken by the government to invest in systems for sharing effective frontline practices like building an evidence base to assist in this response of the primary care sector to this new emerging challenge. (58:40)

The Minister responded that this is such a diabolical phenomenon, and the Government doesn’t know how to treat it.

He emphasised the importance of evidence, research and awareness. However, he admitted that he is not aware of such things done anywhere.

He stated that the Long Covid hybrid strategy is needed to be the key focus. Yet, the Minister is not sure what it looks like or how to map that out clearly for policymakers.

Although I didn’t mention in this summary, all questions asked at the webinar were important and deserve high priority attention.

Please watch the webinar recording, if you are interested.

If I was asked by the Minister what to do with the “diabolical phenomenon”, I urge him to think outside of the “Long Covid” box. Look at it as Post Infection Neuroimmune Disease. Then, he will notice thousands of evidence and the symptom treatment/management possibilities hiding behind plain sight (sometimes intentionally ignored) for so many years. 

Once he examines the evidence, I hope he will realise that Specialised Healthcare for Neuroimmune Diseases is urgently needed. It will free up the bottleneck congestion in the healthcare system that is caused by the “complex” emerging diseases.

It will look like;

Accessible Speciality Clinics

  • GPs can refer their patients like they refer their patients to specialists
  • Patients can access safe and evidence based clinical care from their homes.
  • It includes
    • one on one Telehealth consultations.
    • multiple clinicians to one patient Telehealth consultations. (saves everyone’s time and communication errors between clinicians.)
    • give authority to qualified clinicians who work with GPs, such as Registered Nurses, and Nurse Practitioners, to visit patients at home for physical examination that can comply with annual face to face consultations to provide Medicare funded Telehealth consultations at home.

Create a Neuroimmune Medical Specialty

  • Neuroimmunologists will have the obligation of continuing education to keep up with the emerging evidence on post infection diseases, such as Long Covid, Myalgic Encephalomyelitis (ME), Lyme Disease, and related conditions.
  • Desperate patients and GPs can follow tested and trusted guidance and instructions of management/treatment from Neuroimmunologists.
  • In my humble opinion, there is enough evidence to create a medical school designation for Neuroimmunoligists, including history, several hypotheses of diagnostic tools, treatment trials, etc. and their evidence that are continuingly studied worldwide.
  • If you think creating a new medical school designation is impossible, think about the Nurse Practitioners. The Nurse Practitioner course is relatively new. At the time a university rolled out the course, there was intense debate if the new profession was necessary. Now, the debate has quieted down and nobody is questioning the need for the profession.

The “diabolical phenomenon” was warned by the experts of ME at the beginning of the Covid-19 pandemic. Even patients predicted this. As one of #MillionsMissing who has been advocating for ME for about 2 decades, this is not about the lack of evidence, but intentional neglect in listening to the voice of Health Consumers for such a long period of time.

If you ask the right question to the right Health Consumers, your answer is already there.

What made me hopeful was that the Hon. Mark Butler highly values the work of Health Consumers. And national and state Health Consumer organisations are working effectively and collaboratively to have Consumer’s voices reflected in the future of the healthcare system.

If the Government and the policymakers start listening to Health Consumers with ME, the policy and strategy for Long Covid should not necessarily start from scratch.

Please consider funding the National and State Health Consumers and Clinicians forums and focus on identifying what Australia knows and what services need to be implemented and supported urgently.

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