Doctors hit out at PM's plan

THE plan to free-up overstretched doctors to spend more time on patients with complicated health needs could backfire, a Sunshine Coast GP says.

Under a medical revolution in today’s Federal Budget, every medical practice in the country will get its own nurse to help treat patients.

Each GP will be eligible for $25,000, worth up to $75,000 a year to a three-doctor practice, enough to hire a full-time nurse.

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, and carry out asthma tests and vaccinations.

However, Sunshine Coast Local Medical Association vice-president Wayne Herdy said the presence of this “treatment model” was already in practice.

“To take it away and replace it with another subsidy is misleading,” he said.

“It some cases GPs will end up with less money.

“The result could see a reduction in the hours offered to practice nurses.

“This was something that was raised in Canberra months ago.”

Coolum Beach GP Mason Stevenson, the Australian Medical Association Queensland president (pictured top left), said this reduction in income would only be 4% to 5%.

“It will be up to practice owners and contractors to manage,” he said. “In some cases it may mean less bulk billing.

“Overall this announcement should be welcomed.

“Patients will benefit from more timely treatment.’’

The new payment will be lower if the practice employs an enrolled nurse with lower qualifications than a registered nurse or an Aboriginal health worker instead.

Current government incentives for employing nurses are capped at $40,000 a practice.

Australia-wide, about 40% of practices do not employ a nurse.

The care that practice nurses provide is expected to come at no cost to the patient.

Queensland Nurses Union secretary Gay Hawksworth said she feared the funding package would demand at least another 4000 nurses, despite an existing shortage in the Sunshine State.

By 2014, at least another 14,000 nurses will be required across Queensland to meet demand for public and private health care.

Experts believe there are 441,000 unnecessary admissions to hospitals each year because patients do not manage their chronic conditions or get their follow-up care.

Overall, the Budget is expected to provide about $7billion in new health funding. About $5billion of this will be delivering on promises made to the premiers to get them to sign on to Kevin Rudd’s health reforms.

Doctors also hope the Budget will contain government grants for practices to add rooms to accommodate the nurses and allied health practitioners.

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

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