Jane O'Connell works as a part of Australia's health system. She belongs to the new breed of nurses who are trained to attend to patients without the guidance of the doctors. She can order diagnostic tests such as X-rays, treat them for minor problems,// prescribe them drugs or refer them to a specialist.
A lot of such health care workers are to be seen in action in the US and UK, but their role in Australia is not well recognized. Statistics reveal that there are about 100 nurse practitioners in this country out of which two-thirds are place in the public sector of New South Wales (NSW). Her role is well recognized in the NSW state legislation, But outside the Hornsby Hospital were she is currently working her status is unrecognized by Medicare.
This is due to the simple fact that Medicare is run by federal government and not by the state laws and the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme-PBS (federal program).
O'Connell can prescribe to the patients and they get the money covered by the Medicare if it is dispensed from the hospital's drugs cupboard, but not if it is got from normal High Street pharmacy. So the patients go in for another GP, which would consume more time for the patient as well as the system. Then the patient pays no more than the maximum PBS co-payment of $28.60.
Similarly in case of reference, if she refers a specialist who is in the public hospital system, then the Medicare would cover the expenses. In case if the patient wants to see a specialist in his rooms or in the private hospital, then the patient is charged over $100 for the private consultation and the rebate is as little as $17.85 and not the usual $62.95.
O'Connell is the president of the Australian Nurse Practitioner Association.
The Australian Medical Association vice-president Choong-Siew Yong said that it would be considered as inferior care if health workers were substituted for doctors and it is unacceptable.
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