GP Network News, Issue 13 Number 25
Dr Brian Morton, Chair AMACGP
The AMA has made it easy to send an e-mail to your local MP outlining your personal concerns about the $2000 tax cap on tax deductions for self education expenses on our campaign website: doctors4health.
The AMA is working to help doctors fight the plan to cap tax deductions for work-related education expenses at $2,000 but this is one way you can directly contribute to the campaign.
We encourage you to use the doctors4health website to e-mail your local MP with your own personal story about how this would affect you and why it's a bad idea.
Anger over this issue has united leading medical professional groups around Australia, including the AMA, to conduct a nationwide ‘scrap the cap’ campaign, which was launched last Thursday. Concerned doctors can join a petition and tell their story at #ScraptheCap website. The campaign is also on Twitter #ScraptheCap and Facebook.
AMA urges focus on Health
The AMA views the resolution of the Labor Party’s leadership as an opportunity to sharpen the policy focus again on health issues in the lead up to the Federal election.
The AMA notes the interest that Kevin Rudd previously showed in health reform during his first term as Prime Minister.
In his return to the Labor leadership, Kevin Rudd has indicated that he will review Government policies, and AMA Vice President Professor Geoffrey Dobb said the first decision he needs to make is to abolish the $2000 cap on tax deductions for work-related self-education expenses.
As the Rudd Government finalises its policies in the lead-up to the Federal election, the AMA is urging both major parties to address several other issues critical to quality health care.
Professor Dobb said that both Labor and the Coalition needed to outline plans to address the looming bottlenecks in the medical training pipeline that threaten to strangle the flow of new doctors into the health system. Urgent action is also needed to better support the central role played by general practice in providing high quality health care, as well as increasing the capacity of public hospitals to meet the heavy demands being placed upon them – action that will require unprecedented cooperation between all governments.
He added that a more compassionate approach to the treatment of asylum seekers was a must, including improvements in health services for those held in immigration detention centres – particularly children.
The AMA looks forward to a real debate from the major parties in the lead up to the election showing how they will tackle these and other pressing health issues that are vital to ensuring Australians continue to receive high quality health care.
AMA calls time on flawed GP Super Clinics scheme
The AMA has called on the Federal Government to immediately axe its flawed GP Super Clinics program and direct unspent funds to help upgrade existing general practices, after the Auditor-General confirmed the scheme was badly designed and delivered poor value for money.
AMA Vice President, Professor Geoffrey Dobb, said the results confirmed the AMA’s long-standing concerns that the program was poorly conceived and was a bad use of scarce health funds. He added that the money would have been much better spent on the Primary Care Infrastructure Grants program, which the Auditor-General last year found to be delivering excellent results.
Under this program, $117 million has been allocated over four years to upgrade 425 GP facilities. By contrast, the Auditor-General found that two GP Super Clinics alone had cost taxpayers $50 million, and several more had needed substantial top-up funding.
AMA Council of General Practice – New Executive Committee elected
The AMA Council of General Practice (AMACGP) met in Canberra last weekend to discuss a range of topics important to primary health care. AMACGP Chair, Dr Brian Morton, said the meeting progressed the AMA’s work on a number of issues around the ‘Medical Home’, including access to chronic disease items and funding to support quality general practice.
During Policy Day the AMACGP Executive also met with David Butt, Deputy Secretary of the Commonwealth Department of Health and Ageing, Mr Richard Bartlett, First Assistant Secretary, Medicare Benefits Division, and Mr Mark Booth, First Assistant Secretary, Primary and Ambulatory Care Division on these issues.
A new Executive Committee was also elected over the weekend. Dr Pearn-Rowe was elected unopposed as Convenor and Dr Richard Kidd was elected as Deputy Chair. The five additional executive positions went to:
RACGP takes softer line on after hours requirements
The AMA welcomes the news that the Royal Australian College of General Practitioners is reinterpreting its Standards for general practices regarding patient access to after hours care. The AMA wrote to the RACGP in March 2012 seeking the College’s reconsideration of the retention of indicators for Criterion 1.1.4 A and D as mandatory given the responsibility for supporting local after hours GP services would shift to Medicare Locals on 1 July 2013.
In its newsletter of 21 June 2013, the RACGP acknowledges that the current environment in relation to the planning and funding of after-hours care has caused uncertainty amongst GPs, both in relation to their ability to deliver after-hours care and their ability to subsequently meet the requirements under the RACGP Standards for general practices.
The 4th edition of the Standards require accredited general practices to ensure that their patients are able to access care outside normal opening hours in order to meet Criterion 1.1.4 of the Standards. The new position RACGP is adopting in relation to Criterion 1.1.4 of the Standards is as follows:
The AMA, together with the RACGP and other member organisations of United General Practice Australia, are lobbying the Government to introduce a moratorium to retain the existing after-hours PIP payment until 31 December 2013, to enable Government to address the uncertainty surrounding this issue.
Maintaining Vocational Registration
The AMA reminds members who are Vocationally Registered (VR) GPs that they need to continue to practice predominantly in general practice and meet the minimum requirements of the RACGP for taking part in continuing medical education and quality assurance programs to remain on the Register. Failure to meet these requirements could see them removed from the Vocational Register.
The AMA is concerned that VR GPs who are now recognised by the Medical Board in the speciality of general practice may not be aware that they are still subject to the provisions of the Health Insurance (Vocational Registration of General Practitioners) Regulations 1989, at least until the legislative amendment repealing this piece of legislation is proclaimed.
Under Regulation 6 the RACGP must advise the Chief Executive Officer at Medicare Australia if it is satisfied that a practitioner’s medical practice is not predominantly in general practice or the practitioner has failed to meet the minimum requirements of the RACGP for taking part in continuing medical education and quality assurance programs.
Until such time as the VR regulations are repealed those GPs on the Vocational Register need to be aware of the potential consequences of failing to meet the requirements for remaining on the register.
Situation update for GPs on the MERS-CoV
As of 25 June 2013, the WHO had confirmed 77 cases of Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS) coronavirus, with 40 deaths. All cases have had a history of residence in or travel to the Middle East, or contact with travellers returning from these areas. There have been no cases in Australia.
Most confirmed cases have been male and the infection has been commonly reported amongst older and middle-aged adults. The infection has predominantly been reported in people with underlying conditions. Person-to-person transmission of the virus is occurring in clusters, but the particular conditions, procedures or situations that facilitate spread, and the role of any community transmission are not known. While most patients have presented with or later developed severe acute respiratory symptoms, mild flu-like illnesses and atypical presentations that do not involve respiratory symptoms have also been reported.
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 apprise themselves of the current situation, those likely to be affected, the symptoms, the risks, and key actions to be taken regarding diagnosis, management and reporting.
The AMA advises GPs that the Department and Veterans' Affairs and the Veterans' MATES project team have recently released the thirty-fifth module for the Veterans' MATES project. This topic, Managing neuropathic pain: a step-wise approach highlights the importance of accurate diagnosis, early intervention and regular clinical reviews and will help guide treatment options.
Copies of the therapeutic brief and veteran brochure, along with other topic-related materials were mailed to approximately 4,700 GPs who treat the selected veterans identified in the RPBS dispensing data. In July, the veteran brochure Managing neuropathic pain: the M 3 Approach, will be mailed to veteran patients who have been dispensed pregabalin or gabapentin in the twelve months from 1 February 2012.
Anti-vaccination group called upon by the Senate to disband
The AMA applauds the Senate’s actions this week for passing a motion calling on the anti-vaccination group AVN to disband and cease their harmful and unscientific scare campaign against vaccines.
The motion, presented by Senator Richard Di Natale, Greens health spokesman, noted the low vaccination rates in certain parts of Australia, and the threat this poses to the health of Australian children. The Senator said it was important Parliament take the lead in expressing its disdain for the group’s activities.
“Well-meaning parents are being fed dangerous misinformation which undermines their faith in the safety of vaccines. This has to stop,” said Senator Di Natale.
“As a doctor, I saw first-hand the tragedy these easily preventable diseases can cause. Today the Senate has joined with the public health community to send a clear and strong message to those who are peddling lies about vaccines – they should pack up and go home,” the Senator said.
Billing Accurately under Medicare
AMA members are advised that the Department of Human Services will be mailing approximately 85,000 health practitioners as part of its educative program to increase billing accuracy under Medicare. The letters, to be sent next week, will remind health practitioners of their obligations when billing under Medicare and what practitioners should do to ensure all billings claimed under their provider number are in accordance with MBS requirements.
Independent Hospital Pricing Authority
Work Program 2013-14 public comment invited
Feedback gathered in this public consultation process will be used to help inform IHPA’s final Work Program for 2013-14.