We highlight the new raise on the rebate for GP-administered Heart Health checks to 100%, Higher pay rates for Pharmacists and Sonographers Jobs Outlook in Australia.
GP update: 100% rebate for Heart Health checks from November 2019
Higher pay rates for Pharmacist in Australia
Sonographers Job Outlook in Australia
GPs 100% Rebate for Heart Health Checks
From November 1st, Medicare will raise the rebate for heart health checks to 100%. Around 1.5 million Australians at risk of heart attack or stroke will have access to free GP-administered heart health checks.
Heart diseases as one of the main leading cause of death
Last month, the Australian Bureau of Statistics released a report on the Causes of Death in Australia in 2018.
The report suggested, heart disease and cerebrovascular disease were the leading causes of death in Australia, even with an ongoing decline in the rate of mortality associated in recent years.
The Australia Institute of Health and Welfare also confirmed the findings in their Deaths in Australia 2017 study, revealing that coronary heart disease is the leading underlying cause of deaths in Australia.
Note: Leading causes of death are based on underlying causes of death and classified using an AIHW-modified version of Becker et al. 2006.
Source: AIHW National Mortality Database
Interestingly, heart disease deaths decreased from 91.4 deaths per 100,000 population in 2009 to 54.6 deaths in 2018, while cerebrovascular deaths declined decreased from 11,216 in 2009 to 9,972 in 2018.
The Government has been putting a lot of effort into decreasing these numbers even further. For example recently, $220 million was given in funding for the Mission for Cardiovascular Health through the Medical Research Future Fund (MRFF), and another $4 million investment for the development of a National Strategic Action Plan for Heart Disease and Stroke.
New change on the Heart Health checks rebate
From November 1, Medicare is raising the rebate for heart health checks to 100%. This will allow 1.5 million Australians at risk of heart attack or stroke to have free GP-administered heart health checks.
The change was released on the Australian Government – Department of Health website, confirming that from 1st November 2019 onwards, there will be a change on the rebate percentage from 85% to 100% of the fee.
Since the program was introduced five months ago, more than 35,000 people have had the check to assess heart disease risks and assist patients in lowering this risk.
Heart Foundation suggests that a person is eligible for a Heart Health Check under Medicare if the patient is 45 years or older (30 years or older for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people) and has not had a heart attack or stroke.
The patient can then receive a regular heart health checkup performed by GPs. A Heart Health Check will assist patients in understanding a number of risk factors and for doctors to estimate how likely the patient is to have a heart attack or stroke in the next five years.
Having this checkup will allow people to work with their doctors in managing their risk factors and improving their heart health.
The process usually involves checking the patient’s blood pressure and cholesterol level as well as discussing what they eat, how physically active they are, whether they smoke, as well as other risk factors for heart disease such as their personal and family health history.
All the risk factors will be entered into a web-based calculator to understand the risk of having a heart attack or stroke for the patient in the next five years; low, medium or high risk.
Depending on the results, the doctors may give advice, information and support to make positive changes to the patient’s heart health or prescribe medication to lower the blood pressure or cholesterol.
This new rebate has come after the Heart Foundation and News Corp Australia’s Serial Killer campaign in February saw the Federal Government introduce the new Medicare rebate at 85% for the nation’s first heart health screening program.
For GPs, this change will reimburse them for their time and better support general practices to prioritise the primary prevention of cardiovascular disease.
The Heart Foundation said that they are happy to see that feedback from general practice has been taken on board and they look forward to continuing to work with GPs and practice nurses closely to expand the heart health checks.
In some cases, heart health checks have been proven to save a life. For example, after having a general heart health check, a 38-year-old Sydney father discovered that he had the heart of a 90-year-old and a Melbourne mum found out that she was on the verge of a heart attack.
Check out our full blog here.
Higher Pay Rates for Pharmacists in Australia
Good news for Pharmacists this week, as the second pay rise has been applied for pharmacists who are getting the Award wage, starting from 1st of October ongoing.
The Fair Work Commission (FWC) applied the second phase of the Work Value pay increases to the Pharmacy Industry Award, with Pharmacists in Australia enjoying a pay rise from October 2019.
Low pay rate for Pharmacists
The Professional Pharmacists Australia (PPA) released the Community Pharmacists Employment and Remuneration Report last year, and the findings supported the recommendations made by the Pharmaceutical Society in Australia (PSA) in the Pharmacists in 2023 report. The remuneration for pharmacists did not appropriately reflect their skills, training and expertise.
The average hourly rate for pharmacists is fluctuating around $33.01, according to Payscale. While there has been a small rise in some of the pay rates for community pharmacists, wages have stayed generally stagnant across pharmacist classifications in the recent years.
Therefore, the PPA made a submission to the FWC for a 30% increase to the minimum pay rate in the four-yearly review of the award.
The PPA mentioned the union had taken this action since the pharmacy pay rates have not increased to reflect the changes in their job scope, arguing the role of the pharmacist in Australia has developed a lot over the recent years.
Pharmacists currently can conduct general health consultations, vaccinations and script management, especially for the older patients and with chronic conditions.
As we previously highlighted, some of them are working at 24-hour Pharmacies to assist with urgent needs from patients during the night and many others offer additional services at their pharmacies.
The report also showed that among everyone, community pharmacists working at discount pharmacies have had the lowest pay rates but worked the longest hours, in some cases more than 35.7 hours per week.
Even worse, 82.8% of the pharmacists in the survey respondents expressed that they would not recommend a pharmacy career, citing the pressures of the change in work as well as inadequate staffing and poor pay rates.
Increased pay rates from July and October onwards
The first Work Value Case increase of 2.5% was applied from the first full pay period on or after 1 July 2019.
With this pay rate, first-year pharmacy students will receive $21.41 per hour and fourth-year students will get $23.63 per hour.
A pharmacist can expect approximately $29.41 an hour; an experienced pharmacist $32.21; a pharmacist in charge $32.97; and a pharmacist manager $36.74.
Pharmacists who perform Home Medicine Reviews or Residential Medication Management Reviews will receive the new allowance.
The new clause 19.1 requires employers to pay Pharmacists, Experienced Pharmacists, Pharmacists in Charge or Pharmacist Managers who perform HMRs or RMMRs an additional allowance of $106.40 per week (pro rata for part time). The clause also emphasises that employers are legally required to pay pharmacists these new rates as a minimum.
The efforts from PPA and Professionals Australia are to ensure that jobs which require employees to have qualifications are appropriately remunerated for their skills and responsibilities.
Check out our full blog here.
Sonographers Job Outlook in Australia
Sonographer Jobs are one of the toughest to fill medical jobs in Australia with a significant discrepancy between the number of jobs in demand and supply of qualified staff.
The skill of the sonographer who performs the examination and interprets the findings will highly influence the quality of the examination.
They will read the results with the anatomical images, physical data and real time physiological information. This is also taken into consideration for the final diagnostic report for the medical specialist.
A talented and skilled sonographer should perfect their technical skills, interpretive abilities and decision making.
There are many areas in medical imaging a sonographer looks at including musculoskeletal, paediatric, breast, abdominal, vascular, cardiac, superficial organs, obstetrics and gynaecology.
Sonographers complete the equivalent of a Bachelor of Applied Science, then apply for an accredited post-graduate course.
After completing the post-graduate course and the required minimum clinical experience, sonographers may be eligible for accreditation with the Australasian Sonographer Accreditation Registry (ASAR).
Furthermore, a qualified general sonographer can also be known as an Accredited Medical Sonographer (AMS). If they have completed additional specialist studies, they will receive an appropriate accreditation, for example such as Accredited Cardiac Sonographer (ACS).
Sonographers Salary in Australia
According to Payscale, the average annual salary for a Sonographer in Australia in 2019 can fluctuate around $50.32.
The actual salary may vary depending on their years of experience.
Source: Payscale. Sonographers Salary based on Experience Level
Based on a Payscale survey to 347 sonographers in the database, an entry-level Sonographer with less than 1 year experience can earn around AU$39.83 an hour.
A Sonographer with 1 to 4 years of experience could earn around AU$44.41 an hour.
A Sonographer with 5 to 9 years of experience can earn an average of AU$56.38. With 10-19 years of experience, they can earn around AU$60.72.
Sonographers seemingly earn the most during the later years of their career, with an average hourly rate of AU$61.
However, based on the location of the job, sonographers can expect to earn more, which can range from $60 to $80 per hour as our consultant Judith Butcher regularly works on.
Shortage of Sonographers
As recently reported, despite the sonographer’s remuneration being more than double Australia’s median annual salary of $55,400, it is difficult to fill all of the in-demand jobs across Australia.
According to the Department of Employment and Skills in Queensland, only 27 percent of Sonographer vacancies are being filled, even worse in NSW with only 43 percent of the positions filled.
It was also revealed only 1.4 applicants, on average, are applying for every advertised job in a hospital.
The government is stressing that more action needs to be taken. Employers and alike are having a lot of difficulty with filling sonographer vacancies across the public and private sectors.
Based on the Sonography Workforce Report in Victoria, there are various barriers to recruiting sonographers including:
- remoteness of location (regional/rural areas)
- lack of autonomy and professional recognition
- complexity of clients in the public system
- lack of career pathways
- disparity between public and private sector pay rates
- challenges finding talented sonographers
Of all the factors mentioned, the differences in pay rates between the public and private sectors is considered one of the most significant challenges for recruitment.
And as mentioned in our previous blog, a heavier workload due to staff shortages and more complex patient cases also affected the sonographer supply in the public sector.
Check out our full blog here.
Gorilla Jobs can assist you with exploring a variety of job opportunities across our large network of clients looking for qualified staff. Our experienced consultants in the Doctor, Imaging and Pharmacy divisions look forward to helping you.
Speak to one of our Senior Consultants today and find out what career and recruitment advice will help you to navigate through the positions available and which ones are most suited to your situation.
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