Medicare becomes major issue in election campaign

Wednesday, June 22, 2016

The Medicare universal health scheme has become a major issue in the Federal Election campaign, with the Liberal-National Coalition and Labor battling it out.

The Liberal-National Coalition originally played down Medicare in its pitch to Australian voters. Notably, it said little on its proposal to contract out some $30 billion in back-office processing of Medicare claims annually, including those for services by ophthalmologists and optometrists.

It was also later revealed that the Coalition had established a $5-million taskforce to examine the whole Medicare system.

Labor seized on both these initiatives, claiming they demonstrated the Coalition wanted to sell off Medicare to the private sector – in other words, privatise it.

To add fuel to the fire, it was revealed that the Medibank Private health insurance fund had manipulated its figures prior to the Coalition selling it last year to make it a more attractive purchase. 

On 19 June, at Labor’s election campaign launch in western Sydney, opposition leader Mr Bill Shorten declared the election was a referendum on Medicare and that the Coalition could not be trusted to not interfere with the health scheme. He also committed to removing the extended freeze on the level of Medicare rebates to health professionals made by the Abbott Government, a promise that is understood to extend to optometry. 

Mr Shorten’s declaration caused Liberal-National Coalition leader Mr Malcolm Turnbull to back down from the plans the party had initially announced and to state, “Medicare will never, ever be privatised. It will never be sold. Every element of Medicare services that is being delivered by government today, will be delivered by government in the future. Full stop.”

Mr Shorten responded, “The biggest fraud of the election campaign is the government pretending its taskforce doesn’t exist and that privatising Medicare isn’t part of their plans.”

The Coalition is due to hold its official campaign launch on 26 June. more

Bausch + Lomb renews keratoconus support

Wednesday, June 22, 2016

Bausch + Lomb’s specialty vision products business has renewed its platinum sponsorship of the International Keratoconus Academy (IKA) for the second consecutive year. 

Established in 2014, the IKA promotes ongoing professional education and scientific development in the area of keratoconus and other forms of corneal ectasia.

“Our platinum sponsorship of the IKA is just one example of our commitment to providing education and training to eye-care practitioners and the patients they serve,” Mr David Bland, director of specialty vision products at Bausch + Lomb, said. 

“Through those continued sponsorships, we will be able to bring more specialty lenses to more patients, and ensure that together, we are doing our best to help the eye-care community provide quality and training.”

Dr Barry Eiden, OD, president and co-founder of IKA, said, “The IKA is pleased to recognise Bausch + Lomb specialty vision products as a platinum sponsor for the second consecutive year.
“As an organisation dedicated to the education and advancement of treatment options for keratoconus, we genuinely appreciate the commitment and support that Bausch + Lomb is providing practitioners and their patients with severe ocular conditions through the sponsorship.” more

Medical students fear for jobs as internship crisis looms

Wednesday, June 22, 2016

The Australian Medical Students’ Association (AMSA) has warned that a nationwide shortfall in medical internships will leave recently-graduated doctors unemployed. That will most significantly affect rural Australia and areas of health-workforce need, which continue to suffer from a lack of access to medical practitioners and health services.

As the first internship offers are made this week under a cloud of uncertainty for many prospective junior doctors, AMSA president Ms Elise Buisson said major investment is needed from the Council of Australian Governments (COAG) to drive expansion of internship placements in non-traditional settings.

“A crucial step in resolving the internship crisis will be investing in placements in non-traditional settings. An example of that is the Commonwealth Medical Internships Initiative, which is an innovative Federal Government program that provides an extra 100 internship positions each year,” Ms Buisson said. 

“As recommended by the Review of Medical Intern Training released by the COAG Health Council in 2015, expansion of internship placements into appropriate private, not for profit and community settings is needed to increase the system’s overall capacity.

“Without an internship, medical graduates are unable to continue the necessary training to become the practising doctors that Australia needs, and we will still have junior doctors missing out.”

Australia lost up to 40 junior doctors earlier this year due to the lack of internships, despite an AMSA survey showing that 95 per cent of students without an internship would consider practice in a rural area, where demand for doctors is higher.

“Those young doctors want to work in the Australian healthcare system – to give back to the communities that trained them, to give back to rural Australia and to our areas of need. Without an internship, they’ll have no opportunity to do that,” Ms Buisson said.

“We need a sustainable health workforce where continuing funding and expansion of internship positions is matched with expansion of vocational training positions, especially in rural, regional and remote Australia.”

AMSA is calling upon the federal and state governments to make the expansion of medical internship positions a key health priority in this election year. more