This article featured Debbie Deasey who is a nurse practitioner specialising in aged care and the treatment of chronic illnesses, and who visits patients at their homes.
Debbie explained that she assesses and treat patients who might be bed-bound and unable to get to their GP or who can't cope with long waiting times at the hospital. She noted that it saves on ambulance and hospital admissions, and frees up waiting rooms at both doctors' surgeries and public hospitals for real emergencies. She has also noted that, much of the time, people improve more in the comfortable and familiar surroundings of their home than they do at hospital.
The article noted that the North Coast Area Health Service estimates Ms Deasey has saved the Port Macquarie Base Hospital emergency department $1.5million a year in reduced admissions for over-65s.
Another advantage of a nurse practitioner visiting patients is that they can pick up potential problems bit earlier, and sometimes can prevent the patient ending up in a hospital bed, which can cost up to $1100 a day. This makes much more sense, according to Deasey. This can also saves a lot of heartache; nobody wants to see loved ones in a hospital bed when they could be at home. It is often easier for family to visit their relative at home rather than the hospital, and perhaps they are prepared to cook meals or help in the house,
Federal Health Minister Nicola Roxon said the government would spend $59.7million on expanding the role of nurse practitioners but there is always another view, as Australian Medical Association president Andrew Pesce questioned the cost-effectiveness of allowing nurse practitioners and midwives wider access to the Medicare Benefits Schedule and the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme.
The article quoted Andrew Pesce: "It's difficult to anticipate what the flows in money will be. We don't know what the proposed fees are for midwives and nurse practitioners so it's impossible to predict how it will pan out."
The Royal Australian College of General Practitioners president Dr Chris Mitchell weighed in also, expressing concern that an increase in the number of nurse practitioners may lead to fragmented care. Mitchell stated: "The last thing we want to see is an Americanised fragmented model. It's too easy for patients to slip through the cracks."
Well-Being Australia chairman Mark Tronson says that this sums up the issue: after all this, it is political. The doctors are up in arms over patient care. Yet to become a nurse practitioner one needs a master's degree and a minimum of five years' experience as a registered nurse; and their efforts can reduce the congestion and the 'boring routine work' of a general practice.
M V Tronson says nurse practitioner Peasey hit the right nerve when she stated: "There may be a financial benefit but to me it's the human cost that wins out."
This debate no doubt with go on for some time as the doctors jockey their position and bring the heavy hammer of righteousness upon the politicians, but the Genie has been let out of the bottle now, and nurse practitioners are here to stay. In fact, their services will probably be increased.
Mark Tronson, who has been an industrial chaplain in the past, says he knows that there is nothing more special than for a nurse practitioner to visit. If appropriate, they bring a cheery smile – but always they bring good professional and personal support in ways that have less to do with dollars and a whole lot more to do with holistic well-being. It is something that is looked forward to by the patients,
Moreover Dr M V Tronson noted, that recently when he needed to see his local GP, the first appointment available was at the end of month. Whenever he walked past the medical centre (in a main thoroughfare of a major shopping complex) he noted that the waiting rooms were consistently full of elderly people.
He surmised that if quite a few of these patients might have been served by nurse practitioners, or more nurse practitioners had been available in his area of Tweed Heads, then the waiting times to see his doctor for more 'medical' matters or emergencies would have been much shorter.