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Issue #1690      June 24, 2015

Nurses, midwives blocked from Medicare plans

The Australian Nursing and Midwifery Federation (ANMF) has joined the Australian College of Nurse Practitioners, the Australian College of Midwives, and the Australian College of Nursing to ask the federal government to explain why nurses and midwives have been blocked from its plans to deliver a healthier Medicare.

Nurses and midwives have been all but ignored in the government’s establishment of two key groups which have been tasked with guiding the process of health reform in Australia through improvements to Medicare and management of people with complex and chronic disease.

Current evidence clearly demonstrates that making better use of health workforce skills is the key to affordable health care into the future; this is the way to improve access to care for consumers, particularly the disadvantaged and those living in rural and remote areas. To achieve this long term strategies from governments are needed.

Despite this knowledge, the contributions that could be made by the largest group of health professionals, ideally placed to inform decision-making around better use of Medicare and improvements in primary health care, have been overlooked.

The government’s lack of regard for nurses and midwives and the pivotal roles they play in improving the health of Australians, particularly in the context of primary health care, and the contributions nurses and midwives could make to successful health reform if provided the opportunity, is deeply concerning.

Although nurse practitioners and eligible midwives have access to Medicare, nurses and midwives are not represented at all on the Medicare Benefits Schedule Review Taskforce, and the sole nursing representative on the Primary Health Care Advisory Group comes from a narrow sector of the health system. This still leaves a majority of the nursing profession and all midwives without representation.

The disregard for nurses and midwives is particularly disappointing as it follows personal submissions from each of these key nursing and midwifery organisations directly to the Health Minister seeking appropriate representation on these critical expert groups.

If the government wants a proper and thorough reform process, it must include nurses and midwives. Genuine reform will only occur if there’s transparent and robust engagement with nurses, midwives and all health professionals – not just doctors, health bureaucrats and health economists.

The Australian Nursing and Midwifery Federation, the Australian College of Nurse Practitioners, the Australian College of Midwives and the Australian College of Nursing are therefore urgently requesting an explanation from the Minister and immediate rectification of this matter.

Next article – Internationalist dedication recognised

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