March 17, 2010

AUSTRALIA: Double boost for aged care

. SYDNEY, NSW / Australian Aging Agenda / Health Care / March 17, 2010 Access to vital medical services in residential aged care could improve dramatically with an influx of new doctors. The sector has welcomed the Rudd Government’s announcement of a $632 million initiative to train an extra 5,500 GPs. Gerard Mansour, the CEO of Aged and Community Care Victoria (ACCV) said the investment in more doctors would be well received by aged care facilities, which often face difficulties scheduling appointments with GPs. “We know there are already stories about people’s entry to aged care being delayed because they can’t get access to GPs and there are many challenges in getting GPs to visit aged care facilities,” he said. “There is no question in my mind that residential aged care will be one of the real winners out of this initiative.” Under the government’s proposal, close to $500 million will be used to develop extra clinical training places. Mr Mansour said aged care homes have an important role to play in providing practical experience for medical students. “There is a great opportunity for universities and hospitals that are training future GPs to get them to spend much more time in aged care facilities,” he said. “Our feedback from GPs who are regularly involved in aged care is that some medical students get very little opportunity to visit aged care facilities when they are training. “If the focus is just on hospitals, there is a risk that people will forget the importance of GP’s practising in aged care.” Aged care stakeholders have also welcomed the Senate’s decision to allow nurse practitioners to provide treatment through Medicare and to prescribe under the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme. In a statement following the decision, health minister Nicola Roxon said aged care facilities were a “most appropriate [setting]” for nurse practitioners. Mr Mansour agreed, saying the increased scope of practice for nurse practitioners had the potential to improve care provision in aged care homes. “There is a logical specialty for nurse practitioners in aged care,” he said. “We are exactly the type of sector that the nurse practitioner role is suited to. “We would be delighted to be part of the early stages of this development and to see significant investment in nurse practitioners in aged care.” Ged Kearney, the federal secretary of the Australian Nursing Federation, said nurses had been waiting 10 years for a greater role for nurse practitioners. “This means nurses can get on with the job of providing care that is immensely beneficial to the community,” she said. [rc] © The Intermedia Group.