Medicare Benefits Schedule Review Taskforce ignores role of nurses in providing frontline care

Australian College of Nursing

The Medicare Benefits Schedule (MBS) Review Taskforce final recommendations to Government have continued to entrench the underrepresentation of nurses in the workforce, and their recommendations will do nothing to address ongoing challenges faced across the healthcare system, according to the Australian College of Nursing (ACN).

ACN’s detailed submission recommended a number of evidence-based changes to support improvements to patient care in community settings and reduce demand on emergency departments, but these recommendations were rejected by the Taskforce.

Chief Executive Officer of the Australian College of Nursing, Adjunct Professor Kylie Ward FACN, said the review’s final report reflected a doctor-centric approach to medical policy that did not take a holistic view of patient health or health policy.

“Despite the fact that nurses make up the majority of the health care workforce and provide the bulk of patient care, only one nurse was included as part of the reference group of over 40 professionals. This disproportionate and underrepresentation of the nursing profession is evident in the findings and raises concerns of a lack of diversity and inclusion where, once again, we see exclusion of key voices at the decision-making tables,” Adjunct Professor Ward said.

“Nurses are known as the biggest advocates for their patients, but this report dismisses the role of nurses in favour of doctors with a focus on their pay packets.”

While ACN welcomed the inclusion of a nurse practitioner reference group in supporting future continuous reviews of the MBS, Adjunct Professor Ward said this ignored the impact nurses can have immediately to support care for patients, where they live. It also needs to be seen whether this will be token as the recommendations already submitted by national nursing organisations have been ignored to date.

“This review has missed an opportunity to be bold and really consider the future of health care,” Adjunct Professor Ward said.

Adjunct Professor Ward said the Review Recommendations were particularly poor in the face of the increased responsibility nurses have had due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

“As a society, it is illogical that we trust nurses so deeply to support our care when they are risking their lives in a pandemic, but don’t trust them to provide day-to-day care outside of this setting,” Adjunct Professor Ward said.

Adjunct Professor Ward called on the Federal Government to allow Nurse Practitioners to access MBS items for a wide range of additional care models, as it is clear there is no vision or future thinking from the leaders of the Taskforce.

“Empowering Nurse Practitioners will ease the burden on emergency departments and GPs while also setting up a better future for our health care system which will see increasing demand on staff as our population ages,” Adjunct Professor Ward said.

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