By Genevieve Quilty
CEO Optometry Australia
The second Abbott budget revealed a few nice elements for our profession.
Following evidence-based submissions, the government announced the listing of new Optometry MBS items. One is for the removal of corneal foreign bodies, and there is a series of telehealth items to enable optometrists to support patients in rural and remote locations, Aboriginal Medical Services and aged-care facilities, in video consultations with an ophthalmologist.
The Department of Health has confirmed it is working towards a September 2015 starting date for these items and is preparing legislative amendments now.
We continue to advocate to strengthen the existing Schedule. Alongside our ongoing campaign to reverse patient rebate reductions and reinstate annual indexation, we are seeking amendments to enhance existing items.
One proposal, which if agreed to would make a really positive contribution to our health system, would see an amendment to item 10905 to also cover consultations following referral from a medical doctor.
We first put this proposal forward following advice from members of the need for such a change, and supported by evidence around doctor referring gathered through a survey of members. We are consulting with RACGP on this amendment and will continue to discuss this with the Department of Health at our regular meeting this month.
The Medicare review, announced prior to the budget, will be an opportunity to further discuss the importance of our profession’s contribution to the wider community’s health and the importance of sustainable and fair investment in Medicare for optometry patients.
We have already written to the health minister and discussed with her office and department the need for optometric expertise when they review our items in the MBS. Following further detail, we plan to convene a small working group to assist Optometry Australia in this review.
Optometry Australia made a detailed submission to the taskforce that was established to create a new National Diabetes Strategy. Optometrists play a key role with patients with diabetes, given one in three Australians with diabetes will be diagnosed with diabetic retinopathy during their lifetime.
This has been recognised and supported by government with our item 10915 for many years. We have been working with Vision 2020 and Diabetes Australia on a proposal to enhance the use of the National Diabetes Services Scheme to facilitate regular eye examinations for people with diabetes and have written separately about a proposed new item for diabetic retinopathy screening.
These supported changes as well as a robust National Diabetes Strategy, when implemented, will see many more patients receiving necessary optometric care. This is one of the many roles Optometry Australia undertakes to ensure our profession is best equipped to meet the growing eye health and vision care needs of the Australian community.