Optometry Australia is preparing a detailed written submission to the review of the National Registration and Accreditation Scheme, and at the end of the month will participate in a face-to-face consultation as part of the review. The focus of our input will be on ensuring the benefits of profession-specific boards and accrediting bodies are fully recognised, in light of a seeming push to amalgamate regulatory and accreditation functions for smaller professions.
We continue to engage regularly with the Department of Health regarding the implementation of changes to optometry services under Medicare. A full update on discussions and progress to date is available on www.optometry.org.au.
Following clear advice from Health Minister Peter Dutton that he will not consider amending these measures until evidence of their negative effects on patients’ health are demonstrated, we are focusing on developing a proposal for an alternative scheme to support continued provision of eye care for people in socially disadvantaged areas.
We are working with the Australian Primary Health Care Research Institute to map where areas of risk of poor eye health are greatest, to support a strong advocacy campaign on this issue.
Our efforts continue in seeking amendments to Medicare practices and the legislation that underpins them, to enable optometrists to both bulk-bill and charge patients an additional fee.
We expect that following the reduced rebate for Medicare services due to come into effect on 1 January 2015, many optometrists will not be able to sustainably provide bulk-billed services without an additional fee.
Enabling a practitioner to bulk-bill and charge an additional fee would minimise out-of-pocket expenses for patients and support sustained patient access. We have engaged the Health Minister and minister with responsibilities for Medicare on this issue, and their respective departments. We understand that any change would be a number of years off due to the infrastructure involved but is being considered.
Optometry Australia participated in a meeting of the Department of Veterans’ Affairs Optical Advisory Committee in mid-September. We embraced the opportunity to ensure clarity on how Federal Budget measures will impact the Veterans’ Affairs Schedule, and to welcome South Australian optometrist David Welch as the department’s new optical advisor. Progress on the department’s review of the optical appliance schedule is being made, and Optometry Australia will be a strong voice on the group appointed to undertake this review in coming months.
National CEO Genevieve Quilty met with the Cornea and Contact Lens Society of Australia to discuss shared concerns regarding inconsistent legislation across Australian jurisdictions on the supply of contact lenses and potential impact on patient health. Discussion explored commonalities in position, and opportunities for shared advocacy for strengthened and nationally-aligned legislation.
World Sight Day
World Sight Day on 9 October provides an opportunity to raise community awareness around eye health, and the awareness of federal decision-makers. Optometry Australia will have a strong presence at a forthcoming World Sight Day dinner for the Parliamentary Friends Group for Eye Health and Vision Care, providing the opportunity to engage with federal politicians across parties.
The contributions of optometry to eye health and vision care will be front and centre, with a focus on Victorian optometrist Susan Kalff’s work with older Australians. We will also be hosting at the National Press Club a table of senior bureaucrats and other stakeholder organisations at a World Sight Day address by Amanda Vanstone and Dr Barry Jones, the current and former chairs of Vision 2020 Australia, respectively.
We have welcomed increasing member input to the development of key policy documents and clinical guidelines. Through the Position Statement Advisory Group, members have helped shape position statements, which are now close to completion, on remuneration, bulk-billing and the workforce supply and demand balance.
A team of members bringing expertise and a diversity of experience is also supporting the development of a position statement outlining agreed expectations of a standard adult preventative eye-care examination, and a group of paediatric experts have come together to support the development of new guidelines for paediatric care.