AMA Position Statement on Environmental Sustainability in Health Care 2019

The Royal Australian College of General Practitioners (RACGP) has recently reported on the findings of a 2018 nationwide survey conducted by Choosing Wisely Australia. The survey into “Why health professionals request a test, treatment or procedure” found that 54% of general practitioners and 61% of specialists listed difficulties in accessing information from doctors in other settings, including results as a contributing factor into undertaking unnecessary treatment.

The results demonstrate that the challenges faced in accessing records could be a significant contributor to undertaking avoidable tests, treatments and procedures. According to CEO of Choosing Wisely Australia, there is a drive to improve communication across care settings and ultimately reduce unnecessary medical treatment and tests.

Read RACGP’s news alert here and the results of the survey and report here.

AMA welcomes lifting of freeze on diagnostic imaging Medicare rebates

The Australian Medical Association (AMA) has welcomed the Government’s announcement to end the freeze on Medicare Benefits Schedule (MBS) rebates for diagnostic imaging.

According to AMA President, Dr Bartone, MBS rebates for ultrasounds and x-rays, CT scans, fluoroscopy, mammography, and interventional radiology scans will be indexed from July 2020, signaling “an important first step in addressing rising out-of-pocket costs for patients.”

Click here to read the AMA’s media response or herehe AMA’s Position Statement on Diagnostic Imaging.

Proposed New Residential Care Funding Model

The University of Wollongong released a study on 15 March 2019 which proposed a new and improved residential aged care funding model, as commissioned by the Department of Health. The study identifies and measures the drivers of resource utilisation in residential aged care, for the purpose of developing a new funding model to be considered by the Government. Ultimately, the goal is to provide greater financial stability within the residential aged care sector.

The proposed funding model is similar to the activity based funding system which is already in place nationally. However, the proposal includes an additional two main components. The first is a ‘fixed care’ payment, which would cover the costs of care which all residents receive equally. The second is a variable payment, intended to cover the costs of individualised care for residents.

There is a call for submissions which seeks feedback from the residential aged care sector and broader community on the proposed funding model, which closes 31 May 2019. Submissions on the new proposal for funding can be made here.

To read more, click here. Access the reports from the study here.

New report calling for universal dental care scheme in Australia

Stephen Duckett, the author of a new report from the Grattan InstituteFilling the gap: A universal dental care scheme for Australia” (Report) is calling for universal dental coverage in Australia.

The Report discusses that in Australia, most dental care is provided by the private sector and funded out of patients' own pockets.Of all spending on dental care in 2016-17, individual Australians forked out 58 per cent in out-of-pocket costs.

About a third of the Australian population is eligible for public dental services, but it is estimated there is only capacity to provide oral healthcare for about 20 per cent of those who are eligible.As a result, more than two million Australians delay or avoid going to the dentist each year because of the cost, and hundreds of thousands of Australians remain on public waiting lists for well over a year.

The Report concludes that the “existing public dental schemes are inadequate, uncoordinated, and inequitable across states”, and it proposes that the Federal Government should take responsibility for funding primary dental care in the same way in which it funds primary medical care.

The Victorian Oral Health has stated in its media release (Media Release) that an alliance of dental health professionals, providers and consumers has welcomed the Report as a significant contribution to addressing one of the most in equitable and under-funded areas of healthcare in the country.

Read the report here, and read the Media Release here.

New Requirements for Overseas Trained Doctors to Work in Australia

The Australian Government has introduced a new visa requirement for overseas trained doctors, requiring them to work in regional, rural and remote areas.

Some doctors requiring a visa to work in Australia must ensure that their employer-sponsor has included a Health Workforce Certificate issued by a Rural Workforce Agency in the sponsorship application.A Health Workforce Certificate will be provided where an advertised position responds to genuine workforce need. A visa will not be granted by the Department of Home Affairs without this certificate. The onus is put on employer sponsors to obtain the relevant documents.

This new measure is intended to manage the growth in Australian medical workforce.There has been an increase in the number of locally trained medical graduates and a high steady rate of overseas trained doctors.It is intended that this new visa application process will direct more doctors into areas that have lower access to primary healthcare services.The initiative will reduce the number of overseas trained doctors in capital cities by approximately 200 per year, over four years.

The Chief Executive Officer of Rural Health West, Tim Shackleton, said the new requirements would ensure better distribution of doctors across the country. Rural West Health is an agency which may issue a Health Workforce Certificate.