GP Network News, Issue 13 Number 22

7 Jun 2013

Dr Brian Morton, Chair AMACGP

COAG Report shows that Government cooperation can help close the gap

AMA President, Dr Steve Hambleton, said this week that the COAG Reform Council report, Indigenous Reform 2011-12: Comparing performance across Australia, shows that progress can be made on improving Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander health with the right support and commitment.

While most States and Territories are lagging in their efforts to meet all their Closing the Gap targets, there are strong signs of improvement in key areas - including halving the gap in child deaths, an increase in year 12 school achievement, and increased levels of post-school qualifications.

The current National Partnership Agreement on Closing the Gap in Indigenous Health Outcomes will soon expire, and the AMA believes that a new partnership agreement must be developed and implemented for the next five years.

“We need to keep this momentum going and build on it, but it can only happen with long-term funding and political commitment from all our governments,” Dr Hambleton said.

The AMA congratulates the Federal and the Victorian Governments for making a funding commitment to the next partnership agreement and urges the remaining governments to make a funding commitment that is at least the same as the current partnership agreement.

Click here for full media release.

Education Expenses Discussion Paper leaves little room for discussion

Dr Hambleton, said this week that the Reform to deductions for education expenses Discussion Paper, which was posted on the Treasury website last Friday, outlines an inflexible Government position and provides little opportunity for affected professions to supply detailed submissions in support of tax deductions for genuine professional development.

“The Discussion Paper makes it clear that the $2000 cap will apply to tuition fees, registration fees, textbooks and journals, computers, student union fees, accommodation, running expenses, and travel,” Dr Hambleton said. He added that if membership of a professional association includes an educational component, and many do, this cost will also be included in the cap, which makes the reform even worse than originally thought.

The AMA has received no concrete feedback from the Government that genuine medical education would not be targeted by the reform and, to date, the Coalition has given no indication that it will oppose the reform in the Parliament.

Click here to view the press release and here to view the Discussion Paper on the Treasury website.

AMA urges recognition of ACRRM's Independent Pathway as a 3GA program

Dr Hambleton met recently with the Secretary of the Department of Health and Ageing to discuss a number of issues. In particular, Dr Hambleton advocated the implementation, without further delay, of Recommendation 14 of the 2010 Report on the Review of Medicare Provider Number Legislation. The recommendation urges the Department to recognise the Australian College of Rural and Remote Medicine’s (ACRRM) Independent Pathway as a program under Section 3GA of the Health Insurance Act 1973.

Section 3GA allows medical practitioners undertaking postgraduate education or training placements on approved workforce training programs to access Medicare rebates by being issued Medicare provider numbers and is one mechanism by which doctors working towards vocational qualifications are encouraged to work in rural and remote Australia.

The Review found that registrars enrolled in the Independent Pathway face significant barriers in completing training and obtaining Fellowship. Implementation of the recommendation by the Department would ensure that these registrars are treated fairly, recognising their contribution to rural and remote health care delivery.

Important information for clinicians - MERS Coronavirus

As of 5 June 2013, a novel coronavirus, termed Middle East Respiratory Syndrome coronavirus (MERS-CoV) has been identified in 54 patients in or from Saudi Arabia, Qatar, UK, France, Italy, Germany, Tunisia, Jordan and the United Arab Emirates (UAE), associated in most cases with a severe acute pneumonia and 56% of cases have died.

Almost all confirmed cases have presented with, or later developed, acute, serious respiratory illness and has predominantly affected adults with underlying medical conditions. Typical symptoms have included fever, cough, shortness of breath, and breathing difficulties. A small number of cases have presented with mild influenza-like symptoms. An immunocompromised patient with pneumonitis presented with atypical non-respiratory symptoms (including fever and diarrhoea).

The infection has occurred in people who have lived in or travelled to the Middle East (Jordan, Saudi Arabia, Qatar and the United Arab Emirates), and family, hospital room and workplace contacts of cases acquired in the Middle East.

For patients presenting with pneumonia or pneumonitis with a recent travel history (in the last two weeks) from the Middle East, or contact with known confirmed or probable cases, the following is recommended:

  • Investigations and management should be performed as usual for cases of pneumonia and pneumonitis.
  • Reduce the risk of transmission by following standard precautions, including asking patients to wear a surgical mask.
  • If a patient requires transfer to hospital, ensure that details of travel history and/or exposures to previously confirmed cases are passed on to the admitting hospital.
  • Inform your local public health unit / communicable disease control branch about the case urgently so that public health control measures may be initiated.

More information on what to look for and what to do is available here on DoHA’s website.

New resource to help GPs providing Medicare services under Better Access

A new quick reference guide is now available to support GPs when billing and referring under the Better Access to Psychiatrists, Psychologists and General Practitioners through the Medicare Benefits Schedule (Better Access) initiative. The guide explains the services you can provide under Better Access. It also outlines the steps you need to follow when referring patients for allied mental health services.

You can find a link to the guide in the AMA GP Desktop Support Toolkit or for more information on the new quick reference guide and other online education resources, visit the department’s website then Quick reference guides.

New clinical practice guidelines for the management of obesity

The National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC) has released guidelines titled Clinical Practice Guidelines for the Management of Overweight and Obesity for Adults, Adolescents and Children in Australia.

Intended for use by clinicians, including general practitioners and primary health care nurses, the Guidelines follow the primary care ‘5As’ framework: ask and assess, advise, assist, arrange. A range of health benefits are promoted in the guidelines including healthy eating plans, increased physical activity and behavioural modification to help patients manage obesity.

Electronic copies of the Guidelines can be found in the AMA GP Desktop Support Toolkit or through the NHMRC’s Clinical Practice Guideline Portal ( using guideline ID number 2231. Print copies of the Guidelines can be obtained by e-mailing or by phoning (02) 6269 1080.

New requirement for PIP diabetes incentive - kidney function test

Minister Plibersek announced at the launch of Kidney Health Week that a new kidney function test requirement would be added to the annual cycle of care for those with type 2 diabetes under the Practice Incentives Program. This measure, aimed at encouraging GPs to identify chronic kidney disease in diabetic patients earlier, will commence 1 October 2013.

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

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