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Monday / April 15.
HomemioptometryProgress: the Time is Right

Progress: the Time is Right

The profession of optometry continues to evolve, presenting new opportunities for colleagues to grow their knowledge and expand their business.

As a degree of normality returns to our lives, it is very heartening to see the vigour with which optometrists are once again embracing face-to-face meetings and gatherings with colleagues.

with a Labor government now in place in Canberra, this is the first opportunity in a decade to seek real changes to the Medicare benefits system

Renowned colleague Liz Jackson and I recently finished a short tour of the north coast of NSW and the thing that struck both of us was the enthusiasm of members getting back out to events.

In an encouraging sign for regional NSW, everywhere I looked had ‘No Vacancy’ signs up – and that was in the middle of school term and mid-week as well. It seems like the lure of travel isn’t so much calling as screaming at people.

Those of you who attended Super Sunday the last couple of times will recall that we have brought some speakers in via Zoom. With improvements in the technology that supports streaming, this is now a viable option for conferences, allowing us to select from speakers all over the world, at a fraction of the cost of flying them to Australia. For Super Sunday 2023 and beyond, you can expect to see more of the world’s top optometric presenters, mixed in with the best from Australia and New Zealand. We hope you enjoy it!

While a long way in advance, our Victorian colleagues are hosting the World Congress of Optometry in Melbourne from 8–10 September 2023. This will be the biggest international gathering of optometrists in Australia since NSW hosted the American Academy of Optometry way back in 1998. So put it into your diaries and look out for more details – it will be an event not to be missed!

INTERACTIVE CPD

When it comes to CPD requirements and in particular, ‘interactive learning’, many members equate ‘interactive’ with ‘face-toface’ – but this isn’t the case. It is perfectly possible to get interactive hours online and it is certainly possible to get them through discussions with, for example, your work colleagues or optometry friends.

In terms of online options, there are plenty of events throughout the year that offer online, interactive options. However, the trick is not to leave this until the last couple of months and then run around in a flap trying to find available courses – that’s when you’ll strike trouble.

If you need interactive hours, go to www. optometry.org.au, look at CPD and select ‘interactive’ – provided you’ve given yourself a bit of time, you’ll find plenty there to satisfy the Board’s requirements.

DEMISE OF BULK BILLING?

You would have seen a number of recent stories in the media about the demise of bulk billing in GP practices. The changes have been brought about because, for decades, the rate of increase in the bulk bill rebate hasn’t gone anywhere near CPI, let alone the true costs of operating a private medical practice.

The same is true of optometry.

When optometry was first accepted into Medibank, in 1975, the bulk bill benefit was pretty close to the true cost of providing an optometric consultation. However, just as it has been with medical practitioners, since that time, the annual rebate increase has been well below that of inflation. For example, in 1998, the MBS Schedule Fee for a 10900 was AU$53.40. In June 2022, the fee for a 10910 (equivalent initial consultation) was $69.45 – an annualised rate of increase of just 1.1%. In the same period, inflation rose by an annualised rate of 2.6% – about 2.5 times faster than Medicare.

If our fees had gone up by the rate of inflation, a 10910 would now be paying $98.90 – how good would that look on your bottom-line?

I’ve long held the view that only a Labor government can make significant changes to Medicare. The reason is simple politics – if the Coalition ever tries anything substantial, they are immediately accused of ‘dismantling Medicare’ – and Medicare is a public darling. So, with a Labor government now in place in Canberra, this is the first opportunity in a decade to seek real changes to the Medicare benefits system.

Andrew McKinnon is the Chief Executive Officer of Optometry New South Wales/ Australian Capital Territory.