Last week, the Australian College of Nursing (ACN), submitted a ‘Statement of Action on Nursing Workforce Solutions in response to COVID-19’ and supporting documentation to the Australian Government.
The Statement of Action calls on the Government to “immediately remove barriers to nurses delivering care in the community and enable funding and resources that will allow nurses to provide care for people in their homes and via telehealth.“ It argues ”this action is urgently required to avoid Emergency Department presentations, hospital admissions and to face and respond to the threat of COVID-19.”
Currently, the Medicare funding structure restricts Registered Nurses and Nurse Practitioners working in primary health care (PHC) from providing patients the highly skilled level of care they are trained to deliver. The effective utilisation of PHC nurses — who work outside of hospital settings— is crucial to protecting Australia’s most vulnerable and at-risk patients during the COVID-19 pandemic. PHC nurses will play several key roles as the pandemic spreads including:
- managing the overflow of people from hospitals and/or refusal of hospital admissions;
- reducing the spread of infection;
- managing chronic conditions;
- keeping our most vulnerable and at-risk out of hospitals to support social distancing or self-isolation.
The Statement of Action recommends four solutions to remove legislative and funding barriers to ensure PHC nurses can optimally contribute to the COVID-19 pandemic response.
- Implement the 14 recommendations of the Medicare Review Taskforce – Nurse Practitioner Reference Group Report or provide nurse practitioners immediate access to the same item numbers General Practitioners currently have access to.
- Amend Section 84AAF of the National Health Act 1953 to enable Registered Nurses access to Medicare Provider Numbers.
- Provide Registered Nurses access to existing Nurse Practitioner Medicare Item numbers.
- Work collaboratively with ACN to determine the need for additional Medicare Item numbers and funding of nursing services as the pandemic unfolds.
You can read the statement in full here.
The ‘Supporting Documentation to the Nursing Workforce Solutions in response to COVID-19’ provides detailed background to the Statement of Action. It provides extensive evidence for the solutions listed above along with further considerations including background context, provider numbers, MBS item numbers and a review of block funding programs.
You can read the supporting documentation in full here.
ACN would like to thank our Staff, Fellows and Members who contributed their time and expertise to writing these documents.