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AMA acts to prevent yet another Government shemozzle

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What a total shemozzle we have seen from the Department of Health and the Department of Human Services over the right of GPs to bill for nursing input in health assessments.

First the Government issued a clear directive that immediately prohibited such charging arrangements. Then, when challenged by the Federal AMA, it totally flipped and announced that it could continue at a GP’s discretion.

What about the rights of all those thousands of practice nurses employed to provide just such services to patients, whose positions could have become financially unviable as a result of the change, putting their jobs at risk?

Any change of such magnitude, with such a severe impact on practice management, should never have been dropped, like it was, as a bombshell with instant effect.

Common decency surely demands there should have been at least 12 months’ notice of such a major change, to allow alternative forms of employment to be found for those employees affected.

Thank heavens for the immediate and dogged response from the Federal AMA, through Brian Morton and the AMA Council of General Practice, which resulted in this mad directive being revoked.

One can but ponder who was responsible, what sanction they received, and whether they still have a role in the federal Health Department, and are possibly going to drop more bombs in the future.

All of this uncertainty must make general practice even less enticing to new graduates.

The recent under-indexation of patient rebates, plus the axing of General Practice Education and Training and the confusion surrounding the provision of training for tomorrow’s GPs, means many prospective GPs will wonder if such a career is a wise choice. Heavily burdened with HECS debts, they must wonder if general practice is a business model that stands up to rigorous fiscal scrutiny.

Even though the apparently confused directive has been overturned, it has sent shockwaves through the general practice community, and it will now take years for the Department of Health to regain trust and respect.

On the rural front, nothing positive has come from the Coalition except the decision to overturn the Rudd/Gillard Government’s cap on tax deductions for self-education expenses, for which we must again be thankful for astute and determined AMA lobbying.

What the Senate does with the GP patient co-payment remains to be seen.

I, for one, think we are in for a highly entertaining tussle, with the Palmer United Party shoring up its reputation as the guardian of Joe Citizen to ensure it gets another four-plus Senators elected at the next Federal election, and truly put it in a strong position.

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