Terri Smith, Andrew McKinnon, Greg Johnson, Geoff Squibb, Tony Martella, The New Zealand Association of Optometrists
Happenings and events from the optometry divisions in Australia and NZ
We get to speak with members practicing optometry in all sorts of ways: clinical, academic, corporate, independent, rural and metro. It’s important that we can help members answer questions that arise in day to day practice, but the interaction is not all one way, and we do spend time going to visit members directly, to find out a bit more about what is going on.
In September, the Association hosted a dinner in Bendigo, and invited local optometrists to meet the President and a locally-practicing Board member. It turned out to be a lively and frank discussion, with plenty of food for thought.
Following this, I arranged some visits with members in rural and regional Victoria, to get a bit more insight into some of the main issues facing rural practitioners. Top of the list was the curly question of finding and retaining good staff prepared to work in the country. Some practices are thriving and have great strategies for managing this perennial problem which, it must be said, is not limited to optometry. But we understand that this is a dilemma which all country optometrists have to work at.
“Do not sign anything unless you have taken advice beforehand. The Association should be your first port of call.” Andrew McKinnon
Another matter raised fairly consistently was the need to develop an approach to Medicare funding which recognises that in rural and regional areas, optometry really is delivering primary eye care, absorbing many of the functions that might be able to be carried out in general practice or by ophthalmology services in other areas of the State. These issues have since been raised with our Board and the national Board of Optometrists Association Australia.
We’re interested in our younger members too, and have organised a focus group for a group of optometrists who have graduated in the past five years. The focus group will include optometrists practicing in corporate and independent practice, research and academia, and public health settings. Over dinner, we hope that these members can give our Board some feedback on the ways in which the Association can meet their needs, as well as those of more established practices or members. We want to know what members want from the Association and how they want to receive it.
From our recent research project on how communications technologies might help meet the CPD needs of nonmetropolitan members, through to student and member sessions on how Medicare works, and our major annual event SRC, we hope we’ve been able to make at least some contact with as many of our 1,070 members as possible in 2009. As activities wind down for 2009, we are already planning for a number of events into 2010. Find out more about what we’re up to on our new website: www.optometrists.asn.au/victoria.
We have a new Victorian President in Melissa Downing. We also welcome Kirily Bowen as our new Vice President and Stephen Jones as Treasurer. Paula Monaco has left the board after an amazing 13 years including three terms as President. We thank her for her considerable work to promote and support the optometry profession over those years.
Employment contracts concern me – some more than others. I had one come to me for comment recently that reinforced why it is so important that prospective employees take advice before they sign.
The ‘agreement’ as it was called was a document in five parts. Problem number one: the first part, the ‘agreement’, said that it was the entirety of the agreement between the parties. It didn’t refer to the other four parts, so what purpose did they serve?
The ‘agreement’ posed a number of problems. For example, it refers to legislation which no longer exists for some of its terms and conditions. In other places it refers to non-existent legislation which even if it did exist would have been the wrong law to govern the circumstance.
The ‘agreement’ set out the agreed hours and days of employment – which were then contradicted by one of the other four documents. And even worse, yet another of the documents contradicted both of the others!
Then there was the bonus arrangement – not mentioned at all in the ‘agreement’ but detailed in one of the supporting documents. First question then, is the bonus scheme valid or not? The other problem is that the basis of it looks to be illegal.
Apart from the very important technicalities, the document was well written, professionally presented and quite voluminous. It would be very easy for a prospective employee to look at it, conclude that such a professionally prepared document must be okay and sign. With potentially disastrous consequences.
And so back to my mantra for anyone looking to enter into any sort of agreement, be it for employment, partnership, franchise or whatever. Do not sign anything unless you have taken advice beforehand. The Association should be your first port of call. If the matter is beyond our scope of expertise we will refer you to the appropriate person. Remember that great maxim “decide in haste, repent at leisure”. It’s true!
Council has identified six areas of interest to the profession and will shortly embark on a survey of members to gather their views.
The areas are:
• Enabling Optometrists to sign WorkCover forms – We are keen to find out how many WorkCover patients are seen by optometrists for trauma, foreign body or other work related issues and which other practitioners execute the forms. We are also keen to identify if members think such an initiative would be of benefit to patients.
• Working with the Queensland Government to ensure that all public eye patients are required to consult private optometrists in the first instance – We are interested to find out how many optometrists have public hospital patients referred to them and for what sorts of treatments/issues. We are also interested to learn if optometrists think such referrals could make a positive contribution to waiting list reduction in public hospitals.
• Working with the RACGP and General Practice Queensland to encourage all patients out of GP clinics and into optometry practices – The issue here is to establish the extent of networks between optometrists and GP’s and the extent of referrals between the two groups. • School screening by private optometrists – Some optometrists undertake school screenings and we are interested to find out the incidence of this practice and whether members would support a government initiative under which local optometrists were relied upon to screen children in all government schools.
• Funding the Queensland Vision Inc to facilitate an ongoing Statewide eye health awareness campaign – We are seeking feedback from members as to whether they think the community has a sound understanding of eye disease and conditions and preventative measures to maintain good eye health and the worth of a State Government initiative to undertake an information campaign.
• Mandatory optometric examination for all drivers – Council seeks input from members as to whether or not they would support an initiative under which it was compulsory for all drivers to have an eye examination before a driver’s licence was issued/reissued.
Holiday tidings to our Queensland and NT members and mivision readers everywhere and best wishes from President Shannon Pugh and Council for a peaceful and safe Christmas/New Year period.
National Registration and Accreditation Scheme
Optometrists Association (Tas Division) has examined and endorses the approach set out in the Health Practitioner Regulation National Law (Tasmania) Bill 2009 and the Health Practitioner Regulation National Law (Tasmania) (Consequential Amendments) Bill 2009.
The Optometry Board of Australia (OBA) has released a Consultation Paper which details its proposed advice to Health Ministers on the endorsement of registered optometrists to use and prescribe scheduled medicines. Under the National Law, the OBA will decide which registered optometrists are qualified to use scheduled medicines and endorse their registrations accordingly while the power to decide what optometrists who are so endorsed may actually use and prescribe will remain with States and Territory Governments.
At the moment, in Tasmania, all registered optometrists may use diagnostic medicines.
Optical Appliance Supply
At S 122 the Health Practitioner Regulation National Law Bill 2009 limits who will be able to prescribe optical appliances. It does not however make a prescription a condition of supply of appliances. S 122 is intended to help protect against such vision loss but by itself is ineffective.
Tasmania currently requires prescriptions before optical appliances may be supplied. As such Tasmania is one of only two jurisdictions which afford the public this protection. Optometrists Association has commended the Tasmania Government approach as a model for other States and Territories to follow.
Unfortunately repeal of the Optometrists Registration Act 1994 as proposed will remove this requirement unless action is taken to retain S 62-65 elsewhere. We are advised by the Department that they propose to retain the current arrangements most likely by amendment of the Public Health Act 1997.
We suggest also the protection provided by the current S 62 be extended to cosmetic contact lenses by adding to that section the definition of optical appliances used in S 122 (2).
We support the national scheme and are keen to assist in its early and consistent adoption around the country.
Held at the Esplanade Hotel, Fremantle in late August, WAVE 2009 proved yet again, to be very successful!
Being the leading optometric conference of its type in Western Australia, WAVE combines practical hands on education and training via its clinical workshop program for delegates, as well as enlisting the services of leading eye health professionals in optometry and ophthalmology as presenters. The event provides an ideal networking opportunity for Western Australian optometrists.
I received great feedback about our speakers and presentations. There was a great response to the education programme which was quite varied and different this year. The issues spoken about ranged from straight clinical programmes, to the confronting issue of suspecting child abuse.
We were very pleased to see that this year’s trade exhibition was up in numbers along with interstate participation.
Next year’s WAVE will be held on 6 to 8 August, 2010, with the programme already being developed now. The planning for WAVE 2010 is well underway, and we are currently looking at various speakers to cover a wide array of topics. I look forward to seeing you all next year, as the event will not be one to miss!
Annual General Meeting
This year saw the inception of a new President: Darrell Baker, a partner with the Abernethy Owens Group. He will be replacing Geoff Smith. Thanks to Geoff for his time and efforts as President.
We have recently adopted the new Association Rules for 2009, replacing the 1991 constitution. The new rules have officially been approved – taking us into the future with a much more modernised vision.
Finally, I would like to say a big thankyou to all supporters and sponsors for another great year! Merry Christmas to all mivision readers, I look forward to coming back and seeing you in the New Year.
Clinical Placement Network for Practitioners
With the support of several ophthalmology colleagues, the NZAO is developing a semiformal network for clinical placements at the rooms of participating ophthalmologists (nominal half days).
Existing ocular pathology CPD for the most part is didactic teaching of large or small groups. The idea of the Clinical Placement Network is to provide practitioners with opportunities to sit in with a colleague and learn/observe/ interact one on one in a clinical setting.
Some practitioners are doing this already with the surgeons to whom they refer; the Clinical Network is a more formal extension of that informal system.
The Clinical Placement Network is supported by the NZAO Education and Research Fund and is a development for the benefit of NZAO members.
NZAO Conference 2009
Christchurch Convention Centre was this year’s venue for another great NZAO conference. Keynote speakers Professor Susan Cotter and Dr. Lou Lipschultz spoke on clinically orientated topics relating to children’s vision and low vision. They were both very well received by delegates with plenty pearls to take home. Professor Maurice Yap presented the Alan Bott Memorial Lecture on ‘The control of myopia progression’ and the programme included a line-up of nine other local speakers presenting a wide range of interesting research and clinical practise.
Thanks to this years sponsors: Transitions; Alcon; Hoya; Essilor; Corneal Lens Corporation; Carl Zeiss and Ciba Vision.
Next year’s conference will be in Paihia, Bay of Islands.
The New Zealand Association of Optometrists