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Candidate profile – Dr Chris Zappala  MBBS (Hons), AMusA, GCAE, MHM, MD, FRACP

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Nominating for the position of AMA Vice President

The AMA represents an extremely diverse group of professionals and as such our focus and efforts evolve and change to reflect contemporary need.

The enervating effects of bulk-billing and enforced five-minute consultations puts high-quality medicine in jeopardy. General practice has been progressively disinvested despite all the talk about augmenting community based care and preventing hospital re-admission. The Federal Government must understand that many of their objectives for the health of Australians will be realised if they invest properly in general practice. I accept we must also convince GPs that the AMA understands this and holds it as a priority.

The maldistribution of the workforce has not been solved by an exponential increase in medical graduates. Despite clear AMA policy regarding rural training hubs, appropriate industrial/MBS schedule recognition and bespoke rural/regional training models, we still have a problem. Until this is solved we will continue to endure nefarious role substitution models which pander to other tribal groups and damaging medical over-supply in some areas. 

Oversupply forces public hospital doctors into a vulnerable enterprise bargaining position and poses a threat to private medicine and our professional credibility from possible over-charging/over-servicing, fee splitting and selling fringe medical services. This data is being released by those who wish to subjugate or cheapen doctors, so the AMA needs to be leading the discussion in order to shape perception and potential solutions.

Exorbitant graduating workforce numbers compound upon the burgeoning group of vulnerable junior doctors. They should be assured of transparent and fair selection and examination processes with open knowledge of workforce trends.  The AMA has a clear need to strengthen relationships with Colleges and move us collectively in this direction.

It is not protectionism to want to preserve the freedom of decision-making for doctors and the ability to charge a fee commensurate with training/expertise and the service provided. This preserves high-quality medicine. Pharmacists, non-medical endoscopists, optometrists all encroach on the medical domain with no decisive rebuttal. We are not being enlightened ‘team players’ if we allow medical practice in the future to be harder, less rewarding or diminished in any way.

The public hospital system struggles under perpetual funding shortfalls and a blinkered rigidity that focuses predominantly on targets of dubious relevance to clinical outcomes. This partly relates to operational inefficiency but also politically expedient emphasis on spurious initiatives. Any evolution that simplifies hospital funding and reduces the cost-shifting game would be welcome.

Our Association’s membership worryingly continues to decline, which jeopardises our collective ability to influence. Only the AMA can bring the profession together and has the expertise to achieve medicopolitical outcomes that improve the daily working lives of doctors. Membership must be cheaper and we can engage better through cohesive action amongst the entire AMA family and an expansion of our digital/online capability. 

As always, there is much to do.  We need the entire AMA family to be effective and united in promoting thoughtful initiatives at every level.  There are too many external threats for us not to be at our most potent, but the AMA will need to do things a little different to achieve this. Hopefully, as AMA Vice President, I can contribute to this.

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