Extended hours money pot
Dr Kim Hames, in a moment of ingenuity, has announced the state government will be paying up to $100k incentives for general practices to open from 8pm to midnight, and up to $200k to open from midnight until dawn. The $8.4m move (over three years) is another step in alleviating the burden on the metro emergency departments. AMA (WA) has thrown their weight behind the idea, although the Health Consumer Council’s Michele Kosky said, “Access isn’t the only barrier. Cost is also a barrier so we would strongly urge the Department to look at those GPs who offer to bulk bill, particularly people on fixed incomes or people on low incomes, that they should be given the highest priority.”
Federal budget health summary
May is budget month, with the federales and locals prying open the purse strings for another year. You might have caught glimpses of the impact of Wayne Swan’s budget on health, but in case you missed it, here’s the summary – The good: $134m boost to the rural workforce; $948m in incentives for pathology providers to encourage bulk-billing; and $21.7m to extend registrar rural placements from 6 to 12 months. The bad: $21.7m cut to the Better Access program (reducing the value of the MBS rebate for mental health care plans for GPs without level one mental health care training); GPs denied access to MRI referrals (government saving: $15.3m), and regional training provider cuts (government saving $10.4m). The in-between: $59.7m (over four years) to expand the role of nurse practitioners (including PBS and Medicare access), and a $9.3m review of MBS.
State budget health summary
WA Treasurer Troy Buswell has a nose for his job, and in his first state budget, he’s been kinder to medicos than his federal counterpart. Here’s the highlights: a 5.9% increase in the health spent (to $5.1 billion) – funded in part by the $115m savings from the 3% efficiency initiative (resulting in 527 FTE lost jobs); extra $20m on elective surgery; extra $17.9m for RFDS and Patient Assisted Travel Scheme; home-based hospital programs jump 164% to $47.9m, and palliative care up 23% to 22.4m. The new children’s hospital at the QEII Medical Centre site, the new $135m Albany Hospital, and Fiona Stanley Hospital are all still on track. All the details are here: www.ourstatebudget.wa.gov.au.
Naltrexone fresh re-start
Dr George O’Neil’s work in the development of a naltrexone implant treatment to help heroin-addicted patients has received a shot in the arm (pun intended) by the state government to the tune of $500k. In the face of recent media criticism, Mental Health Minister Graham Jacobs has recognised that George’s work with druggies has saved the government more than $1.1m a year for the last 8 years, and so the government has ponied up the cash to help naltrexone implants gain TGA approval. An independent researcher is to be appointed to do a comprehensive review of the available records and data to confirm the quality, validity, and applicability of the naltrexone research material.
With some practices still not computerised, let alone connected to the internet, E-health can be a bit of a mystery. The federal government’s new Practice Incentives program (PIP) eHealth Incentive commences in August, so is your practice ready? There are three main requirements – ensuring your practice has a “secure messaging capability provided” (eligible suppliers can be checked at www.nehta.gov.au); obtaining a Public Key Infrastructure (PKI) certificate (a huge number of applications for these have been received, so processing is backlogged); and having electronic clinical resources (your practice should have already been supplied with examples – although it is up to you rather than software suppliers to determine whether these resources meet the eligibility requirements). Clear as mud? The NEHTA website can help: www.nehta.gov.au.