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Big issues loom at National Conference

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The arrival of May brings with it not just a Federal Budget but also National Conference, a key event in the AMA annual calendar. 

Preparation for the AMA National Conference is well underway. I have written in an earlier column about the facilitated debate which has been scheduled on the review of the AMA’s position statement on assisted dying. On the political front, several senior politicians have confirmed their participation, notwithstanding that a Federal election will be in full flight by the time of the Conference. There will also be a panel discussion with some of Australia’s leading political journalists analysing likely health policy issues in the Federal election.

A policy session of considerable relevance focuses on the role of private health insurance in the Australian health care system. With private health insurance premiums continuing to rise and some insurers looking at novel ways to tackle safety and quality issues in the private health sector, the session will explore issues affecting medical practitioners, health insurers and private hospitals. Panel participants include Dr Linda Swan, Medibank Private’s Chief Medical Officer and Prof John Horvath AO, Strategic Medical Advisor at Ramsay Health Care. 

Another policy session of interest looks at the challenges of medical self-regulation, exploring the balance between regulation and individual responsibility for maintaining professional standards and behaviours, and the opportunities to provide greater transparency and accountability to the public. The participants in this session include Dr Joanna Flynn, Chair of the Medical Board of Australia, and Associate Professor Matthew Thomas, a leading scientist in the field of human factors and safety management in high-risk work environments. 

On the final morning of the National Conference, delegates will elect a new President and Vice President of the AMA for a two-year term.

Voting for the contested positions on the AMA Federal Council has now closed. Members who used the online voting tool found it easy to use. The full list of incoming Federal Council members will be published in the next edition of Australian Medicine.

At the Annual General Meeting, members will consider amendments to the Constitution to reflect a decision of Federal Council to create practice groups in place of special interest groups. Members will be able to belong to as many practice groups as are relevant to their medical practice. The practice groups will form the basis of future delegate groups to National Conference, in addition to State delegates and members of Federal Council.

I received a good response to my call for expressions of interest to fill the two positions on Federal Council for which no nomination was received.

After an exhaustive process, the Policy Executive of Federal Council has appointed Associate Professor Julian Rait to represent private specialist practice and to chair the Council of Private Specialist Practice, and Dr Sandra Hirowatari to represent rural doctors and chair the Council of Rural Doctors. A sincere thank you to all those members who expressed interest in the positions.