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AMA moves to protect interests of rural GPs

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The AMA has moved to protect the quality of rural health care by applying for a renewal of its authority to represent GPs working as visiting medical officers in country hospitals.

The Association has lodged an application with the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission for renewed authority to represent rural GPs providing VMO services in public hospitals and health facilities in rural and remote areas in their negotiations with State and Territory health departments.

The existing authority expires on 28 February next year, and the Association is anxious to ensure rural doctors working as VMOs are not left without industrial representation.

 In its application, the AMA highlighted several benefits that had flowed to the broader community since the Association was granted negotiation authority in 2008.

These included more effective representation of rural doctors in their dealings with State and Territory health departments, reduced transaction times and costs for these departments when contracting GPs as VMOs, and improved retention of rural GPs working as VMOs in country public hospitals.

“These public benefits have been supported by experiences gained since the granting of the authorisation in 2008,” the AMA said in its application, lodged on 30 October. “There are no appreciable public detriments which have flowed from the authorisation.”

The Association said renewal of the authorisation was “vital” for rural GPs, because it would ensure continued legal protection for both them and those who act on their behalf in collective negotiations.

“In those jurisdictions where the authorisation has been relied on [in] the last few years, the AMA has been able to provide experienced industrial officers to negotiate on behalf of the GPs, saving time, money and frustration, and allowing doctors to focus on patient care,” it said in the application.

If renewed, the authorisation would continue to be valid in all states and territories except New South Wales.

A determination on the application is expected to be made early next year.

Adrian Rollins