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National CEO Genevieve Quilty with Victorian Health Minister David Davis at The Eye on the Future Dinner hosted by Victoria Division at the Melbourne Cricket Ground on 2 April

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May is a challenging month for most professional associations and their members as the Federal Budget is handed down. All the signs in the newspapers and internet blogs suggest a tough budget is coming up, with red herrings, a Trojan horse or two and other stories floated about possible cuts, freezes and all of us ‘suffering pain’ as the budget comes back into surplus.

Can the health system cope with increased chronic illness? How can health outcomes be funded through the current MBS system that pays for episodic care?

Like elite athletes heading towards the first football match of the season—in our case, budget night, 13 May—we have been working hard on behalf of the profession to remind decision-makers about the cost-effective and necessary investment the government continues to make through our profession in preventative eye health and vision care.

We do this regularly, not just in the lead up to budgets. Sustained advocacy is essential and your association has been doing this on your behalf. We are in a very strong position, speaking on behalf of 90 per cent of our profession. This never fails to impress decision-makers—our strength in membership numbers means when we speak, it is with an authoritative and authentic voice for the profession.

We have a simple and compelling message for decision-makers. Our profession provides essential preventative eye health and vision care and it’s up to the association through our advocacy plans and activities to remind decision-makers that while a balanced budget is a good goal to have, so too is sustainable funding to optometry—through Medicare, the PBS and sensible regulatory frameworks such as prescribing. This sustained investment powers our profession to provide amazing primary eye health and vision care every day.

Deputy chairwoman of the association’s national board, Kate Johnson, spoke in March to federal parliamentarians about optometry’s role in eye care. She described what her day in her practice involves, the investment she has made to contribute to the eye health in her community (for example, therapeutics and equipment), and how she provides and facilitates integrated care working hand in hand with other primary health-care practitioners as well as our ophthalmological colleagues, seeking the best eye health outcomes for her patients, and seeking solutions to eye health in her community for the massive benefit of the patient and the community as a whole.

Kate Johnson Vision 2020 - Web
Kate Johnson

A following speaker spoke compellingly about the simple but profound impact that a pair of spectacles made to his life—provided by optometry.

This impact of optometry is not spoken about just federally. I recently attended a Victoria Division event that hosted the Victorian Health Minister David Davis and colleagues in the primary and tertiary sector, to bring together the sector involved in eye health in Australia.

There was a strong collaborative theme running through the event with the Health Minister speaking proudly and passionately about the innovation in the Victorian eye health sector which had benefited Victorians. Examples of this collaboration are the Royal Victorian Eye and Ear Hospital’s work with the Australian College of Optometry, and the sustainable enhancements to the Victorian Eyecare Service.

It was exciting to be hearing that the work of our profession had captured the attention of a busy health minister in such a way. We recently visited the assistant health minister’s office in Canberra. We were there to talk about funding for the Visiting Optometrists Scheme and were told that just the week before, the minister had heard from the profession during a week-long visit in rural and regional Australia about the amazing work our profession had undertaken through a modest investment by VOS funding.

These examples of the importance of optometry in the Australian community and our collaboration with other practitioners for the benefit of patients are so important. They bring alive the activities of our profession and demonstrate the impact of the modest investment the government makes in our profession. These compelling stories back up the advocacy efforts of the association and demonstrate the impact of taxpayers’ investment in sustainable optometric services.

The association will keep all members up to date following budget announcements. Keep your eye out for the budget outcome on our website.

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