Federal Budget initiative has nurses doing doctor's jobs

NURSES in doctors' surgeries will carry out pap smears, test blood sugar and co-ordinate follow-ups under a patient care revolution to be announced in tomorrow's Federal Budget.

Every general practice will receive a payment of $25,000 per GP to employ a registered nurse to free up general practitioners for more complex medical care in overcrowded clinics.

The payment will deliver up to $75,000 a year to a three-doctor practice allowing it to employ a full-time nurse; a six-doctor practice will get up to $150,000 allowing it to fund two full-time nurses.

These nurses will educate patients, with chronic illnesses like diabetes and heart disease, about how to manage their illness. They will also make home visits, stitch and dress wounds, carry out asthma tests and vaccinations.

The nurses will perform a vital role co-ordinating care of the chronically ill by helping them make appointments with specialists like physiotherapists and dieticians and showing them where to go for an X-ray or blood test. They will then follow up these patient appointments and ensure the doctor receives the results.

The nurses will also be available to do regular blood-sugar checks on diabetic patients, blood-cholesterol checks on heart disease patients, carry out ECG tests and help with minor surgery. The care they provide is expected to be free for patients.

Government incentives for employing nurses are currently capped at $40,000. They also apply only in the bush and other areas of workforce shortages. Up to 40 per cent of GP practices do not employ a nurse.

Medicare also currently provides a rebate to doctors for only three services provided by nurses – pap smears, vaccinations and wound dressings.

Medicare rebates for nurses are expected to be scrapped under the health reforms.

GP clinics are likely to instead receive block government funding to employ the new nursing staff.

This will free up practice nurses to carry out a wider range of health-care duties for patients.

In a speech delivered to the Australian Practice Nurses Association on Friday, Federal Health Minister Nicola Roxon promised nurses attending that they would "play a key role" in the Government's reforms to primary health care.

She said the Budget would contain directions that "will be of significant interest to those of you here today".

Doctors are also expecting the Budget to contain Government grants to the nation's 7,000 GP practices so they can add rooms to their surgeries to accommodate the nurses and additional allied-health practitioners including physiotherapists and dieticians.

This would help deliver on the Government's goal of turning every GP clinic into a one-stop shop for health care.

Doctors argue they don't have the room to take on the thousands of extra trainee GPs the Government wants them to train over the next decade.

The Budget will contain the Government's full response to its national health and hospital reform commission, preventative health and primary health-care task force reports.

It's likely to lay out how the Government plans to tackle obesity and problem alcohol consumption.

WHAT TO EXPECT

TAX CUTS: The third round of $4 billion worth of tax cuts to be funded.
The low-income offset will also be increased so people earning less than $30,000 receive the first $16,000 tax free, which is a $1000 increase.

DEFICIT: The underlying cash balance for 2010/11 expected to be lower than the $46.6 billion deficit forecast mid-year.

HEALTH: The Government will detail savings to pay for $5.4 billion in health reforms.
About $5 billion will be raised through the 25 per cent increase in tobacco excise.
An extra $2 billion is expected to be unveiled to boost primary care, increase nurse numbers, and introduce electronic health records.

SPENDING RULES: Government spending capped at 2 per cent above inflation for the next four years.

GROWTH: Gross domestic product growth tipped to be above trend rate of 3 per cent.

BUSINESS: Company tax rate to be cut from 30 to 28 per cent.

IMMIGRATION: The cost of running Australia's immigration detention centres will be outlined, as well the Government's migration intake.

INFRASTRUCTURE: The Government wants to use about $700 million from its 40 per cent Resource Super Profits Tax on the mining industry to fund infrastructure projects.

SPORTS: A funding boost, possibly about $120 million to improve Australia's medal-winning chances at the 2012 Olympics and beyond.

SKILLS: The unemployed to receive a skills training boost to help reduce youth joblessness.

FREQUENT FLYERS: Government to save $160 million over four years by scrapping frequent flyer points for MPs, their staff and federal public servants and encouraging them to fly cut price airlines, and economy.

INSULATION: More details of the cost of fixing up the bungled $2.45 billion home-insulation program.

AVIATION: $200 million package to improve security at the nation's airports including body scanners and introducing baggage screening at regional airports.

TV: The Government is giving a $250 million discount to commercial television stations on their licence fees.

SMALL BUSINESS: Asset write-offs of up to $5000.

SUPERANNUATION: The superannuation guarantee to be gradually raised from 9 to 12 per cent by 2019/20. Low-income workers to get a $500 annual payment on top of their existing co-contribution, and workers over 50 with less than $500,000 in super will be able to top it up by $50,000 a year in concessional contributions.
Workers aged over 70 will be able to get compulsory super contributions until they turn 75.

Article Credit: www.news.com.au