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Budget, global health key items on National Conference agenda

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The impact of the Federal Budget on health and the global challenge of non-communicable diseases will be major themes of the looming AMA National Conference.

The National Conference, which is expected to draw hundreds of AMA members from across Australia to Canberra in the last weekend of May, is shaping as an important opportunity to gauge the medical profession’s reaction to what promises to be one of the most significant Budgets for health in many years.

Already the Federal Government has flagged it is likely to introduce a patient co-payment for GP services, and its Commission of Audit has suggested a range of other radical changes that would fundamentally alter the structure of the health system, including relaxing the principle of community rating in private health insurance, increasing the scope of practice of pharmacists, nurses and allied health professionals, and lifting restrictions in the pharmacy industry.

AMA President Dr Steve Hambleton said the timing of the Conference, coming just 10 days after the Budget was handed down, was extremely fortuitous.

“It is a unique opportunity, in the week after the Budget, for AMA leaders from all around the country to provide their input for our response to the Budget,” Dr Hambleton said.

Conference debates on the Budget and health policy will be informed by first-hand information from the Government, with Health Minister Peter Dutton (and his Labour rival Catherine King) due to address the meeting on Friday, 23 May.

There are also several policy sessions related to the Conference’s overarching global health theme, including the global challenge of non-communicable diseases; the challenges of practising medicine internationally; integrating global health training into postgraduate medical education; the challenge of caring for defence force and emergency personnel who serve overseas; and variation in medical practice between Australia and other countries.

Delegates will hear speeches and presentations from a wide range of international and local experts including World Medical Association President Dr Margaret Mungherera; former Defence Minister and AMA President Dr Brendan Nelson; National Preventative Health Taskforce Chair Professor Rob Moodie, and gastroenterologist Professor Anne Duggan.

In addition to policy sessions, the National Conference will be asked to make decisions crucial to the future direction of the AMA.

On Friday 23 May, the AMA’s Annual General Meeting will be held, at which delegates will be asked to vote on a proposed overhaul of the Association’s constitution. The key proposed change would see operational and corporate compliance responsibilities devolved to a governance board, freeing the Federal Council to focus on its prime policy formulation role.

On Sunday 25 May there will be a vote for the new AMA President and Vice President, with current President Dr Steve Hambleton stepping down from the role.

More information about the National Conference is available at: nationalconference

Adrian Rollins