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Members’ Forum – 12 August 2013

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A $54 million purpose-built brain research facility has opened in Sydney on the Prince of Wales Hospital Campus. One reader expresses the need for more information on spinal cord disease.

Stem cell therapy in relation to spinal cord diseases is a topic that more information and research would be great to be shared
by Chloe Joseph (not verified) 

Doctors face a $10,000 hit to their bank balance when the $2000 cap on tax deductions for education expenses comes into force next year. One reader compares the Australian Government’s decision with New Zealand policy and points out the difficulties doctors will face in Australia.

In all countries that I am aware of, doctors can deduct the cost of their continuous medical education from their taxes. This is in most countries written in law as it is an expense that is incurred to be able to performance one’s profession. We never like to look at New Zealand but there doctors can claim $16,000 per year if they show the invoices and justify the training or continuous education sessions they went to. The system actually pays its doctors 100 per cent back to make sure they remain up-skilled. Here, we have dropped far below that standard with no longer allowing to make tax deductions. Consequences? Very predictable: doctors will no longer go to the important schooling and “maintenance of professional standards” events, but get their education for free over the internet, often provided by the drug industry. There will be no Australian doctors anymore at world stage conferences, and no scientific data will be presented anymore. For the rest of the medical world it will look like Australia has fallen off the map.
We will become a medical third world country. At least people from real poor third world countries can attend conferences as they are often subsidised by richer countries (ironically, for example, by Australia).
by Carl Boden (not verified)

A senior Coalition frontbencher has called for the Federal Government’s $2000 cap on tax deductions for self-education expenses to the be scrapped, undermining previous bipartisan support for the measure. Members voiced their opinion on the disadvantages of the cap and one reader is unconvinced about the Coalitions commitment.

The proposed $2000 education rebate cap is inconsistent with all other tax deductibles in all other businesses. Why would this be an advantage to anyone, let alone businesses that benefit from doctor spending? Non-tax deductible spending would far outweigh tax deductible spending in the setting of educational activities such as conferences and travel.
by Georgina (not verified) 

I am unconvinced these comments amount to a Coalition position on the tax deductibility cap for self-education expenses. When I wrote to my coalition MP (a senior member of Shadow Cabinet), the reply I received was lukewarm and did not offer any commitment to scrap the cap if the Coalition wins office. Similarly, a national medical body I am involved with has received a lukewarm response from Joe Hockey in relation to scrapping the cap. Christopher Pyne can hold whatever personal view he likes (which is all that this amounts to) but the AMA should not be seduced into believing that this amounts to Coalition policy, and should not drop its pressure on both sides of government until the respective leaders have publicly declared a policy position to reverse the proposal. Even then, we should remember L-A-W and how promises can be rescinded at a moment’s notice.
by Bill Macdonald (not verified)

Doctors are being forced to waste hours every week that could be spent with patients, waiting for government bureaucrats to answer phone calls under the Federal Government’s cumbersome prescription authorisation rules. Readers agree that waiting for phone authorities is a waste of time.

The system of having to phone and get approval from someone who has no idea of the medication (and seems these days to be in another country) is totally ridiculous. The assumption that by making it harder to prescribe, we will give up and order something different has never been proven; what about some evidence based bureaucracy!
by John Buchanan (not verified)

Phone authorities are a complete waste of time. I could see some benefit in integrating the authority system into practice software, so that the software sends the script details to Medicare. Even if there was a short delay, at least that time could be spent talking to the patient instead of listening to some nauseating hold music.
by Chris Wood (not verified)

AMA President Dr Steve Hambleton has declared that far-sighted health reforms are urgently needed if the nation is to cope with the growing burden of chronic disease and a rapidly ageing population. AMA members congratulate Dr Steve Hambleton on his call to health reform.

Excellent presentation. Australia is fortunate to have such a forward thinking AMA President.
by Avni Sali (not verified)

As a retired allied health professional and an occasional consumer of health services, I congratulate Dr Hambleton on this wide-ranging call to health reform. Especially the message that prevention is always better than cure.
by Anne Atkinson (not verified) 

The medicines watchdog has admitted that pharmaceuticals and medical devices proven to be unsafe may still be sold on the market. One reader shares his view.

I have recently received a pamphlet showing how my use of CTs is much higher than other GPs. A lot of my work relates to WorkCover claims, as the other MOs will not treat them at our practice because they are time consuming. Before Medicare gets too heated up, break up these stats reflecting different practice styles based on Level B vs Level C and D billings to make the figures more meaningful.
by Joe Cacek (not verified)