Thursday, 12 November 2015
Indigenous Eye Health
That the Senate—
(i) 85 per cent of all eye and vision conditions are preventable with regular eye checks, and
(ii) the Medicare rebate for optometry consultations was reduced by 5 per cent from 1 January 2015;
(i) Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples are disproportionately affected by the cuts due to the combination of geographical and social disadvantages, and
(ii) small investments in preventative, first line eye health will reduce the cost of vision loss to the Australian economy and improve the quality of life of Australia's most vulnerable; and
(c) urges the Government to:
(i) review the impacts of cuts on services to eye health in Aboriginal communities, and
(ii) take measures to address the effect of the cuts on Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples.
We recognise Senator Siewert's passion and commitment to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples and their health and well being—in particular, her participation in and support of the National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Health Implementation Plan. However, we will not be supporting this motion on the basis that the Australian government is investing more than $42 million in Indigenous eye health over the forward estimates, increasing year on year through the Indigenous Australians Health Program. This includes increasing the locations providing optometry services. The government has also committed $16.5 million over four years to prevent, screen for and treat trachoma in Indigenous communities and an increasing number of other eye health outreach programs. This is a demonstration of the government's commitment to improving Indigenous health, including eye health.
The Greens have publicly acknowledged the announcement by Minister Nash in terms of additional funding for Indigenous eye health. I made the point that the time that it was not the full commitment that the eye health community in particular was calling for but it was a good start. That money was invested on the basis of ongoing work in the community. The decrease in the rebate for optometry is directly affecting the ability of optometrists in particular to go into remote communities. So what has been happening is that groups of medicos have been going into remote communities with optometrists to deliver services. What is happening is that the rebate is making it economically unviable, so it undermines the effective of the investment the government has already made.
Question agreed to.