Nurse Practitioners Welcome - But Will Rural Health Teams Survive?

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5th November 2010, 11:09am - Views: 1009

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      Media Release

      5 November 2010

Nurse practitioners welcome - but will rural health teams survive?

People will now be able to claim Medicare refunds for visits to nurse practitioners - a decade after

they were first registered in Australia.  The new legislation will also mean that patients can obtain

certain medications prescribed by nurse practitioners under the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme.

As a result

more nurse practitioners are likely to begin to fill the gaps in firstline health care by

providing services in rural and remote areas. 

“Whatever one’s view about the prospect of a greater number of nurse practitioners working in

community settings,

rather than in emergency


in public hospitals,

patients will


greater access to expert health care and spend less time waiting to see a GP.  People who need to

travel for more specialised treatment can also expect better coordinated care as a result of the

work done locally by a nurse practitioner,” said Dr Jenny May, Chair of the National Rural Health


“For these reasons nurse practitioners

will be welcome additions to the rural health care team.

Team practice is not new to them – they already work within their scope of practice with


and allied health professionals in hospitals and clinics


undertake health assessments,


diagnostic tests, prescribe medicines, refer patients to other health care providers and coordinate

health care for patients. 

“But this week’s good news on nurse practitioners must not obscure the fact that there is a serious

shortage of doctors in many parts of the country,” Dr May said.  “We need to make sure that nurse

practitioners are encouraged and supported to fill gaps in rural areas where one of the key

members of the team – the doctor – is in short supply.”  

“We expect there will soon be some new Medicare items for telehealth consultations and it will be

important that they are

available to


nurse practitioners as well as doctors in rural and

remote communities.  However, telehealth cannot replace first line health care on the ground and

so far there is little evidence that the policies and incentives are in place to encourage a sufficient

number of new medical graduates to the Australian bush.”  

The Alliance plans to

redouble its efforts to encourage Government to provide training,

placements and continuing professional development for medical trainees and existing GPs to

work in rural, regional and remote areas.  It will also ask the Health Minister, Nicola Roxon, to

put in place a new program in next year’s Budget to provide specific incentives for nurse

practitioners to work in towns without

a resident GP

and to provide funding to support the

training of new nurse practitioners. 


Dr Jenny May - Chair: 0427 885 337

Marshall Wilson - Media: 0425 624 100

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