By Skye Cappuccio
National Policy Manager
At a meeting of the Australian Health Workforce Ministerial Council in August, health ministers considered the recommendations of the independent review of the National Registration and Accreditation Scheme.
Health ministers deferred a decision on the recommended amalgamation of nine ‘low-regulatory’ National Boards, including optometry. They invited input on alternative approaches to ensure the sustainability of the National Scheme.
Optometry Australia is strongly opposed to the amalgamation of optometry with other professional boards, as this dilutes the focus on supporting and evolving the profession. We have made a comprehensive submission detailing alternative approaches to promoting sustainability of the scheme, and have also co-ordinated a joint response from professional groups representing the majority of registered professions.
Our petition for a reversal of Medicare rebate cuts and a reinstatement of annual indexation of Medicare fees is due to be tabled in parliament on 19 October. We have been pleased by the response and support from members and their patients.
Victorian MP Anna Burke has agreed to table the petition and to speak to the need for fairer rebates to ensure access to optometric care for all Australians.
To support advocacy for fairer rebates, a small group of members, including representatives from each state and territory, will be involved in meetings with numerous federal politicians on the same day.
The government has announced that the taskforce that has been appointed to undertake a comprehensive review of the Medicare Benefits Schedule will convene a clinical committee specifically to advise on optometry, but that the optometry schedule will not be among the areas of the MBS reviewed as a first priority.
Optometry Australia has recommended a number of eminent optometrists to be appointed to the optometry clinical committee, and believes it is a positive outcome that optometry items are not among the first tranche for review.
We have provided a submission to the Department of Health’s consultation on the Health Workforce Scholarship Programme.
We emphasised the need to maintain scholarships to support optometrists in rural areas to access face-to-face CPD and other professional development opportunities, and particularly to offer grants to support optometrists in these areas to obtain therapeutic qualifications.
We also emphasised the need to maintain current scholarships that support clinical placements for students in rural areas, and recommended the expansion of eligibility for all scholarships in the program to regional areas where access to CPD and post-graduate education may be limited.