Date Published: 29 April 2009

Vulnerable and frail to get substandard medical care

Health News from Australia.

Plans to replace doctors with nurses in front line health services will condemn some of Australia’s most vulnerable and frail patients to medical care that is substandard with less skilled diagnosis and reduced access to medical help.

AMA President, Dr Rosanna Capolingua, said any plan to expand the role of nurses into diagnosis and prescribing for our frail and elderly in nursing homes shows that the government does not value these patients and puts the elderly at risk.

These are our mothers and fathers, our grandparents. The message to us is that government won’t make the effort to support doctors to provide more care for them, but to use a lower level of care by introducing a lesser option,” Dr Capolingua said.

No diagnosis can be deemed as simple, as the processes of coming to that conclusion is complex. A prescription is not about a cheap stopgap; it requires knowledge of the patient and their complex problems and the ability to determine the best course of treatment. Doctors are trained to identify an enormous diversity of illness and clinically appropriate treatments. Caring for the aged and infirm demands the highest levels of training in the management of co-morbidities. This is training nurses simply don’t have no matter how experienced they are in providing nursing care.

This is no place to cut corners. These vulnerable patients need the services of nurses and doctors working in a team, not nurses instead of doctors.

We must insist that our elderly citizens, and the next generation of senior citizens, enjoy at least the same standards of care as the rest of us.”

Dr Capolingua said she was surprised that the proposed measure was to be forced on nursing homes and rural Australia.

Isolation and age leads to significantly increased health risks. And yet the government is treating both demographics as second-class citizens. The young, the better off and the city slickers will be able to choose to see a doctor, and the aged and rural Australia will be told a substitute will do.

The government has a responsibility to support the access to doctors for everyone.

These people and communities deserve better. Nurses are an essential part of our health system, but they are not doctors. We are trained to do different things. Our elderly and rural citizens need the care of both.

The present shortage of GPs was deliberately created by government. The only solution is to train more doctors, and help patients to get access to them.”



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