Regulations hamper use of nurse practitioners
From Health cover
unreferred attendance’’ — which would attract a Medicare rebate of $21 rather than the normal specialist rebate of $65-over $100 that would apply if the referral was by a GP.
Ged Kearney, acting federal secretary of the Australian Nursing Federation, backed the study, saying it supports what we already know: that nurse practitioners are being under-utilised because of barriers created by current funding mechanisms’’.
This Government has demonstrated an appetite for tackling health reform,’’ Kearney said. The time is now right to better utilise the expertise of these skilled practitioners, enabling greater access to and equity within the public health system.’’
The ANF blames the slow take-up of nurse practitioners purely as a result of effective lobbying from the medical profession’’.
The nurse practitioner model has met fierce opposition from the Australian Medical Association. In the past the AMA has signalled it is only prepared to accept nurse practitioners if they are restricted to geographical regions too remote to have a doctor of their own, but AMA president Rosanna Capolingua says even the argument that nurse practitioners were needed in rural areas was weakened by the fact that the vast majority were practising in significant metropolitan regions, and even teaching hospitals’’.
That argument doesn’t hold water,’’ Capolingua said. Nurses are highly skilled and they have a highly significant role in the workforce. They have not got the training, skills and understanding that other members of the professions have. We have to be certain we are not creating tiers of health professionals that cannot provide patients with the very best of care.’’
Professor Gardner’s data shows nurse practitioners have been most rapidly taken up in NSW, where there were 104 as at last September — nearly double the number in the next biggest state, Western Australia, which had 54. Victoria had 29, South Australia had 24, Queensland 14 and the ACT 13. There were none in Tasmania, which has only recently passed legislation enabling their existence, and none in the Northern Territory, which is further behind.
Gardner said nurse practitioners need access to the PBS and provider numbers in the first instance. I guess the point is that if we are looking at reforming health services and the health workforce, there has to be consistent legislative support from both levels of government, otherwise we are not going to achieve the reform agenda that’s been set up.’’
A spokesman for federal Health Minister Nicola Roxon said Labor had already supported similar measures for optometrists.
This (nurse practioner proposal) is something that we would consider as part of our health reform agenda,’’ the spokesman said.
Restricted: Nurse practitioner Kerrie Coleman tends to Stephen Canning