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Genevieve Quilty
CEO Optometry Australia

September marks the first anniversary of the Abbott Government’s term of office.

In its health election policy released during the election campaign in August last year, the Coalition talked about building a world-class health system with access to services provided by highly-skilled health practitioners, as well as a strong primary care sector.

One year after this commitment, there is no question that we continue to have a highly-skilled optometric workforce, with very strong investment by successive governments in training optometrists through universities in Australia, and excellence in CPD delivered by the State Divisions of Optometry Australia.

The challenge for our profession, one year since the election of the Abbott government, is to flourish under fiscal conditions that are challenging, both from a government perspective and a wider economic perspective as we enter the latter part of the mining boom. It is cold comfort but there are challenges in all areas of public funding, including across primary health care, perhaps most notably for GPs, and for public hospital services.

The Federal Treasurer recently took part in an interview on the ABC where a former Treasurer offered him advice by recommending he drop budget measures that were unlikely to get through the Senate. His response?—’It’s not good advice because frankly our budget is part of an overarching economic action strategy that has a number of different component parts … Putting a price signal in relation to visits to the doctor and ensuring that the Medicare system is sustainable is a key part of that program. We are facing a Medicare system that is growing in excess of seven per cent per annum.’

The challenge to maintain a strong Medicare presence and support affordable care for patients in such an environment is substantial. We must show both patients and decision-makers that the public’s investment in optometry is essential for the patient and community as a whole.

Our advocacy to federal parliamentarians continues. The screening day we conducted at Parliament House in June was another step in our ongoing quest to ensure a breadth of parliamentarians understands the significance of the contribution optometry makes to population health.

I challenge you as practitioners to ensure your patients understand the full contribution you make. Public support is the key to an influential argument.

With fiscal challenges there are often opportunities. We know several jurisdictions are reviewing their health spending and seeking to improve efficiency in the way they deliver tertiary services. This provides an opportunity to showcase our profession and seek to ensure the best use of community optometry within eye-care pathways.

This can offer benefits not only to system efficiency but also to timeliness of patient access and associated health outcomes.

World Sight Day is on 9 October, with the call to action to eliminate avoidable blindness. Our marketing campaigns are geared to encouraging greater public awareness of the need for eye health examinations and the value of our profession.

Every optometrist has the opportunity to promote what you do in your local community and raise money for Optometry Giving Sight. Join the World Sight Day Challenge on 9 October. Check the OGS website for information. Visit www.givingsight.org.

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