GP Network News, Issue 13 Number 23

14 Jun 2013

Dr Brian Morton, Chair AMACGP

Make a submission on self education expenses

The AMA will make a very strong submission to Treasury in response to its discussion paper on the $2000 cap on tax deductions for self education expenses.

However, it is very important that Treasury also hears from as many individuals as possible about the impact of this ill advised policy. The AMA is encouraging members to make your own submission in response to the discussion paper and these submissions can be lodged electronically.

Department sees common sense over after hours contracts

The AMA welcomes the decision by the Department of Health and Ageing (DoHA) to issue new contracting guidelines to Medicare Locals for after hours GP services.

From 1 July this year Medicare Locals will have responsibility for funding after hours GP services. A number of Medicare Locals have moved to implement this change by requiring general practices to sign onerous contracts in return for funding, stating that these contracts were required under the Deed for Funding between the Department and each Medicare Local.

AMA Vice President, Professor Geoffrey Dobb, said that these after hours contracts dramatically increase red tape and compliance costs, even though the new arrangements are virtually the same as the old arrangements.

The extra red tape and onerous conditions contained in the contracts had led many GPs to contact the AMA for assistance. Following representations from the AMA, the Department has now clarified that Medicare Locals are not required to include any terms of the Deed, or their equivalent, in contracts for after hours GP services.

“The AMA now calls on Medicare Locals to follow these new guidelines and issue revised and simplified contracts for after hours GP services,” Professor Dobb said.

Click here to read the full media release.

AMA Advice re After Hours Contracts

AMA legal industrial officers have been reviewing Medicare Local after hours contracts from around the country and have developed general advice to members in relation to the main areas of concern. The advice covers: definitions, access to premises, disclosures, indemnities, payment of taxes, compliance with legislation, subcontracting, investigation powers, termination, disputes, intellectual property rights, deliverables, withholding money without penalty, insurance, entity, and funding deed.

Federal and State/Territory AMAs are in discussions with the Australian Medicare Local Alliance (AMLA) in relation to developing a fair and consistent contract. It is hoped this will be available in the coming week.

In the meantime members are advised to review the advice provided regarding the contracts and contact their local AMA with any queries.

Click here for the advice

Confusion threatens patient access to after hours care

Meeting in Canberra this week, United General Practice Australia (UGPA) has expressed serious concerns about threats to the availability of general practice after hours services around the country. UGPA leaders unanimously agreed that, without urgent action, patient access to quality GP after hours services would be compromised.

The provision of after hours services is currently hampered by increasing red tape and confusion around the new arrangements. Furthermore, this may also be a disincentive for practices to remain accredited as providers of high quality care.

UGPA welcomes recent changes to Medicare Locals after hours service contracts announced this week, and states that to provide certainty for patients, PIP after hours funding needs to continue for another six months during the transition to new contracts.

There is a growing need to provide and improve community access to after hours care. UGPA says this requires more investment, not less.

Discussion Paper exposes new ‘tax on learning’

Professor Dobb, said this week that Government assurances that employer-provided genuine medical education would not be affected by new tax arrangements have been undermined by the Government’s own Discussion Paper.

Under the proposed reforms, the tax deduction for work-related self-education expenses would be limited to $2,000 per person from 1 July 2014.

Professor Dobb said that both the Treasurer and the Health Minister have said publicly that the new arrangements would not penalise legitimate education activities and employer-funded education would not be subject to Fringe Benefits Tax (FBT), but the Discussion Paper sets out a different view. Clause 68 of the Discussion Paper says:

"The Government understands that many employers incur education expenses on behalf of their employees as this training provides benefits to their business. As part of this proposed measure the otherwise deductible rule may no longer apply to education expenses in excess of the $2000 cap. This may result in employers being liable for FBT on any education expenses over the cap of $2000, incurred by them on behalf of their employees."

This tax on learning will add enormous cost and complexity to ongoing medical education, and many doctors will be forced to limit or scrap further education as their employers opt out of supporting this activity.

Professor Dobb said the tax system would discourage doctors from becoming even better doctors. The new tax measures will have a dramatic effect on areas that are already experiencing medical workforce shortages. Doctors working in rural areas will no longer be able to afford the travel and other costs associated with the medical training needed to help them serve their communities, and many may choose to move to larger centres.

The Government must immediately withdraw the Discussion Paper and instead engage in face-to-face consultation with the medical and other professions to protect genuine and much-needed professional development.

Click here for full media release.

AMA President to spell out health policy priorities for 2013 Federal Election

AMA President, Dr Steve Hambleton, will address the National Press Club in Canberra on Wednesday, 17 July 2013. Dr Hambleton will highlight the policies and pledges that the AMA believes the Government, the Coalition, and other parties must commit to and deliver if Australians are to continue to enjoy affordable access to high quality health services into the future.

The AMA will release its document - Key Health Issues for the 2013 Federal Election - at the National Press Club event.

Book a seat or a group table at the National Press Club for Dr Hambleton’s address.

Penny pinching on training tax breaks ill advised

The Sydney Morning Herald recently featured an article by Dr Brian Owler, President, AMA NSW on Federal Government plans to limit tax-deductible continuing professional development expenses to $2000. Dr Owler discusses the impact this will have on doctors' training and the serious consequences for healthcare standards and patients' safety.

Click here to read the article in full.

Information for GPs on the MERS-CoV

The Department of Health and Ageing has made available online specific information for GPs regarding the Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS) coronavirus. GPs are encouraged to click here to appraise themselves of the current situation, those likely to be affected, the symptoms, the risks, and key actions to taken regarding diagnosis, management and reporting.

PIP eHealth incentive for secure messaging – commissioning requirement to be met by 1 August 2013

Practices participating in the PIP eHealth incentive need to be aware of the requirement to verify that their compliant secure messaging product (requirement 2 for the eHealth incentive) has been installed and configured by 1 August 2013.

This SMD commissioning requirement is designed to ensure that SMD products are interoperable and can therefore electronically transmit and receive clinical messages to and from other healthcare providers.

Practices claiming the PIP eHealth incentive need to ensure their SMD product has been assessed against the Commissioning Requirements for Secure Message Delivery, available on the NEHTA website.

It is important that practices do not overlook this requirement, which is a mandatory condition of continuing eligibility for the PIP eHealth incentive.

The AMA recommends you talk to your SMD product supplier to work out the best way for your practice to commission its SMD product.

AMA Congratulates Recipients of Queens Birthday Honours

Congratulations to all doctors and health professionals whose outstanding work was acknowledged in the Queens Birthday Honours List over the weekend. Professor Dobb said that doctors who devote their lives and their careers to looking after the health of their communities are true local heroes.

Professor Dobb paid tribute to Professor Chris Baggoley, Australia’s Chief Medical Officer, who was appointed an Officer of the Order of Australia (AO) for distinguished service to medicine, particularly in the area of emergency medicine as a clinician, to medical administration and public health care, and to education.

Professor Dobb said that the AMA is enormously proud of AMA members who received Queens Birthday Honours. They include:Associate Professor John Clark McBain, Armadale Victoria, received the Officer of the Order of Australia (AO), for distinguished service to reproductive medicine as a gynaecologist, particularly in the area of infertility, to medical education as an academic, and to professional organisations.

Those who received Member of the Order of Australia (AM) were:

  • Dr Paul Ernest Beaumont, Church Point NSW, for significant service to medicine, particularly in the field of ophthalmology;
  • Professor Nikolai Bogduk, Newcastle NSW, for significant service to medical research and education, particularly in the specialties of anatomy, spinal health and chronic pain management;
  • Dr Eric Charles Fairbank, Warrnambool, for significant service to palliative care medicine in regional Victoria;
  • Dr John Meredith Harrison, Parramatta NSW, for significant service to orthopaedic medicine, and to water polo;
  • Dr Francis Xavier (Frank) Moloney, Orange NSW, for significant service to medicine, particularly in the field of anaesthesia;
  • Winthrop Professor John Phillipps Newnham, University of WA, for significant service to medicine in the field of obstetrics;
  • Dr John Graham Rogers, Toorak Victoria, for significant service to medicine in the fields of clinical genetics and paediatrics;
  • Dr Peter Harold Woodruff, Chelmer Queensland, for significant service to medicine, particularly in the field of vascular surgery and through contributions to healthcare standards; and
  • Dr Jennifer Margaret Wray, for significant service to medicine in rural areas, particularly in the community of Narooma, NSW.

Those who received the Medal of the Order of Australia (OAM) were:

  • Dr Ronald Dalkeith Scott, for service to the community of Boorowa, NSW, as a general practitioner; and
  • Dr Brian James White, ACT, for service to medicine in the field of mental health, and to veterans and their families.

The AMA also notes the achievements of GPs Dr Brian Bowring – AM, Tasmania, for services to medicine in rural and regional areas; Dr Patrick O’Neill – OAM, for services to medicine in Far North Queensland; Dr Clifford Smith – OAM, Terrigal NSW, for services to medicine, particularly for his work in Papua New Guinea; and Dr Arcot Kumar – OAM, Canowindra NSW, for services to the community.

MJA Articles of Interest

The Medical Journal of Australia, 3 June 2013, contains a number of articles that may be of interest to GPs. These include articles looking at: the benefits and problems with prostate cancer screening; determining the benchmarks for monitoring adverse events following the implementation of the HPV vaccine program for boys; investigating iron deficiency anaemia; and how the findings of the Medical Schools Outcomes Database and Longitudinal Tracking (MSOD) Project inform medical workforce planning and education.

Click here to read these articles and more.

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