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Wednesday, 1 March 1995
Page: 1381

(Question No. 2021)

Mr Moore asked the Minister for Human Services and Health, upon notice, on 7 February 1995:

  (1) Does the Government acknowledge the need for persons suffering from chronic fatigue syndrome to obtain appropriate treatment for their condition.

  (2) Will the Government provide Medicare rebates to patients seeking treatment for chronic fatigue syndrome.

  (3) Did the former Minister for Health, Senator Graham Richardson, enter into an agreement with Dr A. Martinovic on 19 May 1993 to establish a Chronic Fatigue Syndrome Review Committee.

  (4) Did the committee's terms of reference include the establishment of a clear set of guidelines to indicate the generally accepted treatment within the Medicare program for chronic fatigue syndrome; if so, what progress has been made towards the establishment of the guidelines.

Dr Lawrence —The answer to the honourable member's question is as follows:

  (1) Yes.

  (2) Yes—provided that the service or services for which Medicare rebates are being sought are medical services rendered by or on behalf of a medical practitioner and are "clinically relevant". A clinically relevant service means a service rendered by a medical practitioner that is generally accepted in the medical profession as being necessary for the appropriate treatment of the patient to whom it is rendered.

  (3) and (4) No. On 19 May 1993, the former Minister offered Dr Martinovic an independent review of his practice in relation to CFS by a special committee established under the National Health Act. Dr Martinovic accepted the offer.

  The Chronic Fatigue Syndrome Review Committee's Terms of Reference were to:

  (a) review the clinical aspects of the practice of Dr Andriya Martinovic and make recommendations to the Minister for Health concerning—

  (i) whether the services rendered by Dr Martinovic for patients suffering from Chronic Fatigue Syndrome (CFS) are of a kind that are generally accepted by the medical profession as appropriate and necessary for the treatment of CFS; and

  (ii) whether the frequency of the services/tests rendered or requested by Dr Martinovic is appropriate for the treatment of individual CFS patients.

  (b) having regard to current medical practice in Australia, make recommendations to the Minister of Health on diagnostic and management regimes that the medical profession would regard as appropriate for sufferers of CFS.

  In its May 1994 Report, the Chronic Fatigue Syndrome Review Committee highlighted the absence of any agreed position on the diagnosis and management of CFS within the Australian health care community. To address this deficiency, it recommended bringing together interested parties from the health care and research communities, government and the general public to develop a consensus on CFS relevant to Australia with strategies for care, research and funding.

  Discussions have been held with the Royal Australian College of General Practitioners to conduct a comprehensive survey of the attitudes, beliefs and practices of general practitioners as to the diagnosis and management of CFS. The information obtained from this survey will provide the base from which strategies for the diagnosis and treatment of this debilitating condition can be developed.