By UTE SCHULENBERG
BRONWYN Chalmers says the Federal Government's new pap smear rebate, which came into effect on January 1, will be a real bonus for the Women's Health Centre (WHC) in Coffs Harbour.
"It means we will be able to generate some income for a service we have been providing for years," Ms Chalmers, manager of the WHC, said.
The new rebate of $10.20 applies to nurses working in rural GP's surgeries performing the potentially life-saving cancer screening test and was part of the Howard Government's re-election platform.
There is, however, a catch.
The rebate only applies to nurses working in surgeries that bulk-bill.
And there are not many of them around these days.
In Bowraville, Dr Edwina Guard, said although the idea of the rebate sounded good, surgeries like hers would first have to pay the cost of having a nurse trained for the pap smear procedure.
"Balanced against the cost of having the nurse trained, the $10 rebate is not a lot," Dr Guard said.
"Having two women doctors here anyway we have not decided yet what we will do."
The main advantage she sees in the new rebate is for practices with male GPs.
"Although a lot of women are happy to see a male GP generally, they do prefer having a woman for the pap smear procedure," she said.
A practice nurse from Woolgoolga said the rebate would help in ethnic communities, where women are tentative when dealing with male doctors.
"Not all surgeries have practice nurses, but hopefully this will be an incentive to get them on staff," she said.
She also believes the initiative may help ease the load on women doctors.
"Female doctors are very busy and this will hopefully alleviate some of the pressure on them."
She did, however, point out the problems for nurses wanting to get the pap smear training here in Coffs Harbour.
"Although it is possible to do the two-day theoretical part of the course locally, the clinical training can only be done in a public Women's Health Centre ? the closest ones are in Kempsey, Port Macquarie or Lismore."
Dr Gull Herzberg, of Bellingen Healing Centre, says having the nurses doing the procedure does make it more accessible for women.
"The nurses have the special skill to make people feel comfortable," he said.
"This gives some recognition of that.
"Ten dollars is really only lip-service but it's something."