GP Network News, Issue 13 Number 12

28 Mar 2013

Dr Brian Morton, Chair AMACGP

Optometry Board puts glaucoma patients’ care at risk

The AMA is calling on all Australian Health Ministers to reverse a decision by the Optometry Board of Australia to allow optometrists to independently manage patients with glaucoma. AMA President, Dr Steve Hambleton, said that the Optometry Board decision goes against the advice of the Pharmaceutical Benefits Advisory Committee (PBAC) and against the wishes of the peak glaucoma support group, Glaucoma Australia.

Click here to view the full press release.

AMA supports recognition of Indigenous Australians in Constitution

Dr Hambleton said this week that the AMA supports moves to recognise Aboriginal people and Torres Strait Islanders and their cultures in Australia’s Constitution. He said that doing so could help improve the health and wellbeing of Indigenous Australians.

Click here to view the full press release.

A jab the only real protection from the flu

Warnings about the coming flu season in Australia are still strong, and an Australian Medicine article this week urged people to get an influenza vaccination as soon as possible. Concern that Australia could be heading for a severe outbreak of the disease this year arises from the recent killer season experienced by the United States and Europe.

Chair of the Influenza Specialist Group Dr Alan Hampson said there had already been an "unusually high" number of influenza cases so far this summer. He said 87 children in America had died as a result of complications after being infected with the flu, and New York was plunged into a state of emergency in January by the diagnosis of more than 19,000 cases – five times the number recorded in 2012.

For more click here.

New front opens in Defence contract battle

There are signs that the standoff between Medibank Health Services (MHS) and specialists over controversial ADF medical service contracts is starting to affect the training and supervision of Australian Defence Force GP registrars.

The AMA has learnt that several civilian accredited supervisors who have worked with ADF for many years have refused to accept the new controversial contractual terms, which involve a dramatic cut in fees, onerous reporting requirements and compromised referral rights, leading to a shortage of supervisors.

In the absence of properly qualified supervisors, ADF health facilities face the prospect of losing their training accreditation, increasing the challenge for ADF GP registrars in satisfying their training requirements.

The AMA has sought clarification from both MHS and General Practice Education and Training about the extent of the problem, and what action is being taken to address it.

Click here to read the full story in Australian Medicine.

New guide to venomous bites and stings

A comprehensive guide to help doctors accurately diagnose and treat venomous bites and stings has been developed. In response to doctor concerns that most victims cannot identify the creature that bit or stung them, BioCSL has produced a 330 page handbook titled A Clinician’s Guide to Australian Venomous Bites and Stings: incorporating the updated CSL Antivenom Handbook to provide practitioners with access to best practice diagnosis and treatment techniques for Australian venomous animals. The handbook encompasses everything from basic first aid, to the specific and detailed best-practice treatment of even the less common land, marine and fresh water creatures.

Medical professionals can a get a free copy of the handbook by emailing and providing their postal address and AHPRA number.

GP Clinics can ease pressure on emergency care

This week’s edition of Australian Medicine reports on a study by the Monash University’s Centre for Health Economics, which has found that locating general practice clinics at hospitals will do more to reduce the waiting time for emergency care than adding more emergency departments.

The report found that co-located GP clinics cut emergency department (ED) waiting times by 19 per cent, whereas providing more emergency departments in an area actually added to the time emergency category 2 patients had to wait for treatment, as more demand was generated from non-urgent patients.

The lead author of the study, Dr Anurag Sharma, said co-located GP clinics provided an alternative place for non-urgent patients to be treated, freeing up EDs to concentrate on emergency cases.

For more click here.

Medical Journal of Australia

GPs may be interested in a number of items in this week’s edition of Medical Journal of Australia, covering:

  • the risk of measles transmission in aeroplanes from the Australian perspective (Veronica C Hoad et al);
  • the increasing incidence of hospitalisation for sport-related concussion in Victoria, (Caroline F Finch et al);
  • the threat of extensively drug resistant tuberculosis (Tony Kirby);
  • coordination of care between specialist and general practice for people with chronic pain (Geoffrey K Mitchell).

Government rejoices at near record bulk billing levels

According to the Department of Health and Ageing, there were almost 120 million GP services in 2012, and of these around 80.5 per cent were bulk billed.

Health Minister Tanya Plibersek said the figures showed the Government was achieving its goal of ensuring that all Australians had access to quality and affordable health care. The government is pleased bulk billing rates for GP services have returned to record highs, Minister Plibersek also said.

The AMA would argue that the bulk billing rate is more due to the goodwill of general practitioners discounting their fee than any recent efforts from the government to support general practice.

With year on year Medicare Benefits Schedule (MBS) indexation well below parity with other indices such as the Labour Price Index, today there is quite a disconnect between the MBS fees and the realistic cost of providing the service. The AMA Gaps Poster illustrates this (click here to download or call (02) 6270 5400 to order one). The AMA encourages medical practitioners to set their own fees based on their practice cost experience and provides members with the tools and resources to do so, which are available at

Tools include a checklist for those medical practitioners who have decided to move from bulk billing to patient billing and a template letter to explain to their patients why their fee is different to the Medicare rebate.

We welcome your comments and suggestions as well. Please tell us what you think.

What if you couldn't work due to illness or injury?

If you couldn't work, who would help maintain your lifestyle? While we are all different, consider some of your regular expenses: mortgage, school fees, car, entertainment, memberships, electricity, rates - they all add up. But help for AMA members may be easier to access than you think. Click here for more information.

OnePath Life Limited (ABN 33 009 657 176)

In this issue:

AMA is the peak medical organisation in Australia representing the profession’s interests to Government and the wider community. Your Federal AMA General Practice Policy team can be contacted via email or by phone (02) 6270 5400. You can unsubscribe from GPNN by emailing