$5.5 million program to deliver outreach optometric services to remote and very remote locations.
The Visiting Optometrists Scheme (VOS) was established in 1975. It supports optometrists to deliver outreach optometric services to remote and very remote locations, and rural communities with an identified need for optometric services.
In communities that would not otherwise have ready access to primary eye care, the Visiting Optometrists Scheme has a significant role in detecting eye diseases and ensuring appropriate referral for treatment and ongoing management. To achieve this, it increases visiting optometrist services by addressing some of the financial disincentives incurred by optometrists who provide outreach services.
The Visiting Optometrists Scheme has two elements:
- Core VOS; and
- VOS Expansion for Indigenous Australians.
Funding under the Core VOS has been available since 1975. In recognition of the prevalence of eye disease in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities, additional funding has been provided since 2009 to provide new and increased numbers of optometrist visits to Indigenous Australians in remote and very remote Indigenous communities. This is known as the VOS Expansion for Indigenous Australians.
Services for Indigenous Australians are not excluded from the Core VOS.
The objectives of the VOS are to:
- improve the eye health of Australians living and working in remote and very remote locations, and rural communities with an identified need for optometric services;
- increase visiting optometrist services in areas of identified need;
- support optometrists to provide outreach services; and
- encourage and facilitate integration and communication between visiting optometrists, local health providers and other visiting health professionals to improve the quality of ongoing patient care.
What Will Be Funded?
Funding may be provided for costs that include;
- travel, accommodation and meals;
- facility fees and administrative support at the outreach location;
- external locum support at the home practice;
- lease and transport of equipment; and
- an absence from practice allowance to compensate participating optometrists for the loss of business opportunity due to time spent travelling to and from an outreach location to deliver VOS supported services.
To maximise efficiency, applicants are encouraged to apply for the delivery of outreach services in circuits (i.e. where the optometrist travels away from his/her principal practice to a number of locations in the same geographical area, rather than making separate trips to individual locations).
Further information on VOS Funding is provided in the VOS guidelines, which are provided with this Invitation to Apply for Funding.
Who Can Apply for the Funding?
The applicant must be a Participating Optometrist for the purposes of the Medicare provisions (i.e. have signed a Common Form of Undertaking – Participating Optometrists) and must have an Australian Business Number (ABN) or an Australian Company Number (ACN).
How Much Funding is Available?
The Australian Government will provide around $5.5 million under the Core element of the VOS and around $2.4 million under the VOS Expansion for indigenous Australians from 1 July 2012 to 30 June 2014. The Department anticipates that the first payment of funding to the successful Applicants will occur in July 2012.