Happenings and events from the optometry divisions in Australia and New Zealand
National registration of health professionals is upon us. An exciting new era is about to dawn.
Like all new systems there will be good and not-so-good elements.
Locums will love the new arrangements, as it will put an end to the need to be registered everywhere they practice – even if that was only for a few days
On the plus side, we’ll have a single national system of regulation, where standards right across the country are uniform. Of particular interest to optometrists will be therapeutics, where it is now almost certain that we’ll have a standardised set of drugs available all over Australia.
Locums will love the new arrangements, as it will put an end to the need to be registered everywhere they practice – even if that was only for a few days.
On the down side, it is also certain that for most practitioners the cost of registration will rise. Whilst we don’t yet know the quantum of that rise, for NSW practitioners it is likely to be a few hundred dollars more per annum. But locums will find it cheaper, with just a single annual fee.
Several of the new (and most hotly debated) requirements are to be introduced for all health professions – mandatory CPD being the most apparent. It is almost unarguable that CPD is an expectation of being a registered health professional. This is simply an extension of that expectation.
The detail of the new arrangements is currently in the late stages of preparation. It is scheduled for release in late May and will be communicated to all optometrists as soon as it becomes available.
We were delighted to see more than half our Victorian members at SRC again this year. Thank you all for coming along to our annual conference and trade expo. Whether you were there or not you might want to pop the dates for next year in your diary – Saturday 14 May to Monday 16 May 2011 – SRC is always the third weekend in May. SRC 2011 will be with us before you have a chance to blink!
For me SRC is always a great opportunity to make contact with members although it is always over too soon and I’m thinking I didn’t catch up with so and so…
Many members did take the opportunity to stop and say hello and ask me that question they’ve been meaning to ask for ages or let me know their views about a current optometry issue. Whilst I am always happy to answer questions whenever I run into members I am also just at the other end of the phone or email. If there is something I can help you with you don’t have to wait. We love talking to members so please don’t ever hesitate to call regardless of how big or small your question. If we can’t answer it in the office we are sure to know someone who can.
We also caught up recently with some of last year’s graduates to hear how they are settling into work and answer any questions they had about the Association or optometry practice. CPD was high on their list of questions. They also had a range of queries about national registration and the all important question,”What happens if I get sued?”.
Our Policy Manager, Kirsty Machon, ventured up to Ballarat to talk with members recently. This was an opportunity to hear about issues for members in Ballarat and also to answer their questions. One of the more common questions was, “How can I get a locum to fill in for me?” Unfortunately this is a question we hear often and one that is difficult to answer. Whilst we can refer members to the locums who advertise in Australian Optometry we are aware that there is great demand for affordable locum services – particularly in country areas. This is an ongoing issue and unfortunately not one that is easily resolved in this employment market.
With National Registration just one month away we are answering many questions, calls and emails, from members about this issue. Please don’t hesitate to contact us with your query. Both Kirsty and I are now very familiar with the common issues for members about national registration and can generally set your mind to rest. Give us a call on (AUS) 03 9652 9100 or email [email protected]. We would love to hear from you.
The Division hasn’t always been kind to Queensland politicians given their past lack of courage in bringing the state into line with the rest of the nation in terms of optometric practice. But we must give credit where credit is due, Deputy Premier and Minister for Health the Hon. Paul Lucas MP and Queensland Health Director-General Mick Reid have been an absolute joy to work with and have put patients over politics with their March 2010 determination to give glaucoma shared care rights to optometrists bringing the state a step closer to a national prescribing model. It augurs well for even more joint eye health initiatives between the OAA and the government.
The success of this new mode of practice will come down to the types of relationships members share with the ophthalmologists to whom they refer. Fortunately the overwhelming majority of the state’s ophthalmologists are extremely cooperative. The approved glaucoma guidelines can be found at W:www.optometrists.asn.au/LinkClick.aspx?fileticket=IPNGsVSVUK0%3d&tabid=684&language=en-US
Interstate members should note that applications are now open for the next Queensland University of Technology (QUT) post-graduate, ocular therapeutics course. As with previous QUT courses this course is likely to fill quite quickly and it would be wise to get applications in early. Applications close 18 June 2010 and can be found at www.studentservices.qut.edu.au/pdfs/forms/pg_forms/pg_frm.pdf
The Queensland Vision Initiative (QVI) was founded some seven years ago and it is a collaboration of 24 eye health organisations including the OAA. In that short time it has undertaken three major eye health studies in the state and provided subsequent reports to both state and federal governments. It has also delivered four statewide satellite television broadcasts to over 170 Queensland Health hospitals, clinics and agencies on subjects including indigenous eye health and diabetes. However, the overwhelming majority of its income was to undertake specific projects which are now complete and it found itself perilously short of funds.
The OAA Board resolved to extend a grant of AUD$20,000 to QVI Inc thus joining RANZCO and Guide Dogs Queensland as the only members to provide funding to the organisation until it has further success with state and federal government grants. All QVI members agreed that the organisation had come too far and achieved too much to be made redundant.
In WA we had a horrible shock in mid-April when as the government threatened not to sign off on the National Registration scheme. This came off back of Prime Minister Rudd’s amendments and WA was only state that didn’t sign up to the agreement. The previous week was when was when this was meant to get signed off on and we were wondering why it didn’t make it into the agenda.
Health Minister Kim Hames threatened to boycott the national medical registration scheme after learning annual fees for WA doctors would soar from 1 July. Shadow Health Minister Roger Cook said WA was delaying signing up to a health funding agreement with Canberra at a time when elective surgery times were still growing. Despite a record 7059 operations last month, the number of patients waiting was continuing to rise.
So I tried to get to the bottom of what was happened and contacted the WA Treasurer Troy Buswell, who was usually a go-to man for us. He was going to help us out and then by the weekend we discovered there had been a scandal involving him and Greens MP Adele Carles.
At this stage the agenda has been reinstated and it will be considered when parliament next convenes. However regardless of what happens here, National registration is still on track for 1 July.
We now have all 30 of our members signed up for the ocular therapeutics course in WA, named the Graduate Certificate in Ocular Therapeutics. The course is being run by UNSW by correspondence, and will be held in WA.
This is the first time that a university has transplanted the course from interstate. There has been great cooperation with UNSW, particularly the Professor and head of school Fiona Stapleton. They have been very flexible and that has allowed us to keep our costs down and minimise the disruptions for students by being away from home/work.
We are looking to share the courses in the therapeutics course with South Australia. So this means that this time around the Graduate Certificate will involve a little but of travel. The reason for this is that we are bringing in international speakers and they cannot travel to two separate locations. However, by next year hopefully the entire course will be locally based. We are allowed to have 30 members at a time in each state.
Commences 30 July and runs through to 2 November
Module 1: Biomedical foundations and legal requirements
Module 2: Clinical skills workshop
Module 3 Part A: Ocular disorders and their management: Glaucoma
Module 4 Part B: Ocular disorders and their management: all other disorders
In April we have had a few CPD sessions organised by CIBA Vision, called ‘Unlock Your Practice Potential’. And we are in the process of finalising the program for Tasmanian Lifestyle Congress to be held in Hobart from 27 to 29 August and by then will also have had ‘AgFest’ – the largest rural event in Australia, which is held over three days. Here we provided free eye health and visions screening and this year also a display of safety glasses and a promotion of eye safety. We were also joined by Glaucoma Australia and the Orientation and Mobility Officers from Guide Dogs Australia.
From a legislation point of view, by the time you read this, the Tasmanian Parliament should have cleared the National Registration Legislation through both houses of Parliament. In addition we have been asked to comment on the Optometry Offences Bill 2010. When the new national registration is passed, this repeals the old Optometry Act, but in doing so overlooked sections including those that dealt with the requirement to have a prescription for the supply of optical appliances which include contact lenses.
One of the things we are concerned about is that we understood that each jurisdiction was going to include cosmetic contact lenses (planos) within that same provision: i.e. the requirement for a prescription before cosmetic contact lenses could be supplied. Unfortunately, this has been left out and so we are currently making a submission to the department to have this brought in line with the national agreement. The state health ministers agreed that this provision should be included in the relevant state legislations.
In Tasmania, the treasury has opposed it as they felt there was no need to regulate the sale of cosmetic lenses, but we are pushing the health aspect as we know from cases in Australia and New Zealand in particular how easy it is to pick up diseases and sight threatening conditions from plano lenses. This is because people can purchase them from any stores or markets and therefore the customer will not be informed about how to put them in properly or the proper hygiene requirements. These ought to be regulated from a public health point of view and also from an eye safety point of view.
While we are not trying to restrict the sale of plano lenses to optometrists, we do believe there is a need for a prescription for cosmetic contact lenses so they can be fitted properly and patients can be educated so in proper use and care.
After a hold up resulting from a state election, the legislation required to transition from the SA Optometry Practice Act 2007 to national registration will be tabled in SA parliament in May. Despite the delay, the government remains confident that the July deadline will be met here in South Australia.
In addition to accepting the general legislation already passed in Queensland and other states, the Health Practitioner Regulation National Law (South Australia) Bill 2010 also picks up key points included in the SA Optometry Practice Act 2007 that have been missed by the national legislation.
After such passionate campaigning by the Association over the years and success in 2007, we are delighted to see that the SA government is proposing to continue the regulation of the sale of plano and cosmetic contact lenses here in South Australia. It will continue to be an offence to sell these lenses to anyone who is not able to present a current prescription for the lenses written by an optometrist or medical practitioner. We (and the government) were disappointed that other states and territories did not agree that this issue is important enough to slot into the national legislation, but believe that it is a goal we can strive for via state legislative processes.
The proposed Bill also makes it an offence to dispense to an out-of-date optical prescription. This will provide another mechanism to encourage the community to seek regular eye-health and vision checks, which we applaud. Contact lens prescriptions will automatically expire at 18 months and spectacle prescriptions at three years, but there is flexibility for the prescribing optometrist to specify a shorter date if it is clinically appropriate.
I was warmed to see in the last issue that the Victorian members are beginning to utilise the interactive capacity of their new web site and now use this route to provide feedback and questions. I sincerely hope that now the South Australia Division has transferred over to its new web site SA members will do the same.
For information on SA Blue Sky Congress 2010, CPR training and more go to www.optometrists.asn.au and click on South Australia. Here members can find details and registration for up-and-coming CPD events in SA. You can also access a selection of handy resources to save you time in your practice, including the SA Ophthalmology Directory (specialties and addresses of SA ophthalmologists for easy referring), the Vision Standards Manual (a summary of vision standards required for careers in SA, including emergency services, pilots, etc) and the list of SA optometrists prescribing ocular therapeutics.