Taskforce ignores role of nurses in frontline care, says ACN
The Australian College of Nursing (ACN) says the final recommendations of the Medicare Benefits Schedule (MBS) Review Taskforce to government perpetuate the under-representation of nurses in the workforce and will do nothing to address ongoing challenges faced across the healthcare system.
The ACN’s detailed submission recommended several 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.
ACN CEO 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 healthcare 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 under-representation 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 the 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.
“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.
She 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 healthcare system, which will see increasing demand on staff as our population ages,” Adjunct Professor Ward said.
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