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Monday / April 15.
HomeminewsHealth Care Urges Reform by Albanese Government

Health Care Urges Reform by Albanese Government

Representative health care organisations have welcomed the incoming Labor Government.

Key appointments that will influence healthcare are:
Mark Butler: Minister for Health and Aged Care,
Ged Kearney: Assistant Minister for Health and Aged Care
Emma McBride: Assistant Minister for Regional and Rural Health.
Ed Husic: Minister for Industry, and
Linda Burney: Minister for Indigenous Australians.

during his time as Shadow Health Minister, (Mr Butler) had shown passion and dedication and deep understanding of the complexities of the health portfolio

Optometry Australia’s $22.6 million Cash Injection Ask

  1. $1 million over two years to pilot a collaborative care model involving optometry supporting the provision of ophthalmology-led care of patients with sight threatening age-related macular degeneration and diabetic macula odema. Although these patients require regular treatment often administered by intravitreal injection, access can be difficult if ophthalmic care is not readily available due to location or cost. It is understandable that there is a 20% drop out rate in intravitreal injection treatment. Optometry Australia is seeking Government support to establish a pilot that would allow patients in two locations – including a remote Indigenous community – to access this care through locally-based trained optometrists.
  2. $1 million over two years to increase payment to optometrists providing optometric domiciliary services in residential aged care. The current MBS rebate of $24.20 per visit is grossly inadequate and requires an increase to $85 per visit (note, this is per visit, not per patient). This would encourage more optometrists to provide domiciliary services for vulnerable older and immobile Australians.
  3. $1 million over two years to support the ongoing rollout of Optometry Australia’s eye health awareness campaign, Good vision for life. Launched and in market since September 2016, this campaign has been instrumental in increasing public awareness of the importance of regular eye examinations.
  4. $1 million over two years to build broad health professional awareness of eye disease and the importance of timely eye examinations for patients with, or at risk of, chronic health conditions.
  5. $18.1 million over five years to better fund the Visiting Optometry Scheme (VOS) which delivers outreach services to remote and very remote locations and in particular, to First Nation People. VOS needs firmer financial support to allow for growth – Optometry Australia estimates over 21,000 additional VOS-supported eye examinations are needed per annum.

Escalate Eye Care

With a looming eye health crisis on the horizon that has the potential to impact the eyesight of millions of Australians, Optometry Australia says it will appeal to the new Government to escalate eye health reform as part of its overarching health agenda.

In its pre-election campaigning, Mr Albanese committed Labor to implementing primary care reforms costing almost AU$1 billion over four years.

Optometry Australia’s President, Murray Smith, said the Association hopes the Government will release a relatively small AU$22.6 million of this commitment for investment in eye health over five years.

The Association says eye health in Australia at increasing risk; many Australians are unable to access the timely eye care they need which, combined with our ageing population, places continued pressure on an already over-stretched tertiary eye care system. Optometry Australia predicts this will contribute to a looming eye health crisis.

“Long-term eye conditions place a $16.6bn economic burden on the Australian economy annually, yet successive governments have been slow to implement reforms that could reverse this,” said Mr Murray.

“On behalf of the 13 million Australians who have one or more long-term eye conditions, and Australia’s 6,300 highly skilled optometrists who are ready to provide the on-going care they need, we welcome working with Mr Albanese to change this trend.”

Optometry Australia believes a small $22.6 million investment* over five years to initiate six projects could have a significant impact in providing much needed access to eye care.

Policy change will also be required so that:
• Optometrists can support ophthalmology-led care of patients with sight threatening eye diseases such as age-related macular degeneration and diabetic macula oedema.
• Optometrists who provide optometric domiciliary services in residential aged care can be better paid to cover their own increasing out-of-pocket costs and through this, encourage more optometrists to provide these much needed aged-care services.
• The Visiting Optometry Scheme, which delivers outreach services to remote and very remote locations and in particular, to First Nation People, can be expanded.
• Optometrists are granted the right to administer oral prescriptions for common eye conditions. This would alleviate the need for them to refer patients to a medical practitioner or an ophthalmologist to administer the prescription, resulting in the double-handling of patients through the health system and additional costs for the patient.
• Awareness of the role of optometrists in managing eye health and the importance of timely eye examinations in the detection and treatment of eye health issues amongst health professionals as well as consumers is maintained through unbiased eye health marketing.

Mr Smith said enabling these actions requires not just funding support but regulatory change.

“Optometry Australia has strong ties with the Labor Government and we will be seeking meetings as quickly as possible to provide an updated overview of the eye health of Australians and why this funding and policies changes are needed,” he said.

Deliver World-class Medical Care

Medicines Australia believes the Hon. Mark Butler MP, has the perfect opportunity to lead significant health system reform and set the course for world’s best health care for future generations.

CEO, Elizabeth de Somer, said reviews and reforms already underway need the Minister’s leadership to ensure Australian patients have faster access to the latest innovative medicines, vaccines, and treatments.

Key reforms highlighted by Medicines Australia are:
• Full implementation of the Medicines Australia Strategic Agreement,
• Accepting the recommendations from the House of Representatives Inquiry and publishing a Government response,
• Finalising the National Medicines Policy Review and commit to its vision and purpose, and
• Reform of the Health Technology Assessment (HTA) process, including agreement on an Independent Chair for the Review Committee.
Ms de Somer described Mr Butler’s approach as “collaborative” and said during his time as Shadow Health Minister, he had “shown passion and dedication and deep understanding of the complexities of the health portfolio, including the PBS and the medicines industry”.
She said, “Labor has committed to deliver on its vision of universal, fast, and world-class medical care and we believe this is possible with bold patient-centred health reform.

“Minister Butler has shown vast knowledge and appreciation of the many complex and growing health needs of Australians, industry, and stakeholders, including patient groups, and is aware of the challenges and opportunities ahead.

“Medicines save lives and improve lives. Investment in the health of all Australians means better outcomes for our society, our economy, and our overall health and wellbeing,” Ms de Somer said.

Boost Funding

Australian Medical Association (AMA) President Dr Omar Khorshid called for upcoming discussions on healthcare to address the growing crisis in Australia’s hospital system.

“I urge the Minister to grasp this opportunity to start a new relationship with the states and territories on reforming the health system,” Dr Khorshid said.

“While we need a long-term funding solution, we also need practical, short to medium-term solutions that can be implemented soon and don’t have any unintended consequences, including extending the short-term 50/50 hospital funding that’s due to expire in September.”

Dr Khorshid said the AMA was looking forward to working with the Government on progressing its $970 million Medicare and general practice reforms and on a new Centre for Disease Control.

“We worked with Minister Butler on the primary care reforms and look forward to working with the Government on the careful design and implementation of those reforms, but there’s also a discussion to be had about what the future looks like beyond the next four years.”

Attract Health Care Workers

Australian Private Hospitals Association (APHA) CEO Michael Roff said this is an important time for the health care sector, with escalating elective surgery backlogs and workforce shortages impacting the entire health and aged care system.

Calling on the Government to follow the lead of the United Kingdom, Canada and France, he said Australia needs to introduce enhanced residency pathways to attract health care workers.

“The private hospital sector alone has a shortfall of 5,500 nurses and urgently needs at least 1,000 skilled migrant nurses. We want to work with the new Federal Government to enhance incentives for nurses to come to Australia – by improving residency options and reducing the red tape from the process.

“In turn, private hospitals have an important role to play in training Australia’s emerging local health workforce, they already do this, at some considerable cost to themselves, but they have capacity to do more, and we welcome an opportunity to discuss how we can contribute.”

“There are consistent challenges in recruiting and retaining pharmacists across all sectors, with many choosing to leave pharmacy because of low base rates of pay,” he said.

Similarly, Assoc/Prof Chris Freeman National President of the Pharmaceutical Society of Australia (PSA) highlighted the major challenge of workforce shortages and pharmacist retention.

“We need investment in a whole of profession workforce strategy so that we can sustainably meet all the exciting opportunities in front of the profession, while provide rewarding careers, both professionally and financially.

Prioritise Rural and Regional Care

Labor’s plan to invest $970 million in general practice care in community has been welcomed by The Royal Australian College of General Practitioners (RACGP).

College President, Adj/Professor Karen Price, said the Government’s rural and regional health package announcement, including new funding for junior doctors taking on additional skills, also holds “tremendous promise”, adding that “General practice care outside of our cities must be a high priority”.

The RACGP President also urged the new Government to tackle the long-term challenges facing general practice.

“I know that the new Government will need time to take stock of the health portfolio and implement the promises made during the election; however, I also urge them to take on large-scale improvements to Medicare and general practice funding,” she said.

“Australian general practice needs big picture reform to secure the future viability of general practice care. Medicare rebates haven’t kept pace with the cost of providing high-quality care and that must change. Earlier this year, a Senate Committee’s interim report into the provision of general practitioner and related primary health services to outer metropolitan, rural, and regional Australians recommended the federal Government investigates substantially increasing Medicare rebates for all levels of GP consultations.

“I urge the Government to heed those recommendations and put in place the measures featured in our Vision for general practice and a sustainable healthcare system. Sophisticated modelling of this vision revealed estimated benefits of a billion dollars in the first year, at a minimum, and at least $5.6 billion over the next five years.

The RACGP also called for significant reforms including increased Medicare rebates and a new Medicare item for longer consultations lasting more than 60 minutes.