Nurses to replace doctors under Labor Party plan

EVERY doctor's practice in the country will get its own nurse to help treat patients, make home visits, write prescriptions and co-ordinate follow-up care, under a medical revolution in tomorrow's Federal Budget.

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.

The nurses will lead a revolution in healthcare, teaching patients with chronic problems like diabetes and heart disease how to manage their conditions, dressing wounds, and carrying out asthma tests and vaccinations.

They will also carry out pap smears, test blood sugar and cholesterol and co-ordinate follow-up care with specialists and health carers.

The care they provide is expected to come at no cost to the patient and it will free up GPs to carry out the more complex medical care.

Currently, government incentives for employing nurses are capped at $40,000 per practice and only apply in rural areas or those with a workforce shortage. About 40 per cent of practices do not employ a nurse.

Medicare also currently provides a rebate to doctors for only three types of services provided by nurses - pap smears, vaccinations and dressings.

The federal Budget will extend the incentives to employ a nurse at more general practices.

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

Medicare rebates for nurses are expected to be scrapped under the reforms with GP clinics instead receiving block government funding to employ nurses instead.

This will free up practice nurses to carry out a much wider range of healthcare duties.

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

The job of the nurse will be to make sure this happens.

In a speech to the Australian Practice Nurses Association on Friday Health Minister Nicola Roxon promised nurses they would "play a key role" in the Government's reforms to primary health care.

Doctors are also expecting the Budget to contain government grants to the nation's 7000 GP practices so they can add rooms to their surgeries to accommodate the nurses and allied health practitioners like physiotherapists and dieticians.

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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