Communiqué from March Federal Council meeting
DR BEVERLEY ROWBOTHAM, CHAIR, FEDERAL COUNCIL
Federal Council met in Canberra on March 16 and 17. Debate was robust as always and productive, with numerous Position Statements approved for adoption. These will be released to members and the public over coming weeks.
The President reported, as is our usual practice, in a town hall format, with questions of the President from Councillors and some debate. The President reported that the AMA had maintained a very high media profile over the summer period, with many press releases on summer lifestyle issues. These included avoiding heat stress, drinking in moderation, and driving safely. There were also significant Position Statements released, including the AMA Position Statement on Mental Health, which attracted a lot of positive interest from the mental health community.
In the week prior to the Federal Council meeting, the President had released the Public Hospital Report Card, highlighting the need for continued investment by Federal and State Governments in our public hospitals.
The major focus of discussion at this meeting was the recent actions of Bupa in announcing changes to its cover, which will impact doctors and patients alike. Federal Council urged the President to maintain his advocacy on the issue.
The Secretary General’s report again highlighted the scope of activity underway within the Federal AMA secretariat and the success of AMA advocacy on behalf of members; workforce initiatives; the granting by the ACCC of a further authorisation to permit certain billing arrangements to benefit general practices; discussions with the Department of Health on its review of medical indemnity insurance schemes; the raft of reviews relevant to reforms to private health insurance; the ongoing MBS reviews, and much more.
Federal Council considered a proposal for the introduction of post nominal letters to denote membership of the AMA, a move that has been long in the gestation. Further work is required before the Board considers amendments to the By Laws to make provision for the introduction.
Another key discussion was the change to the format of National Conference this year with the introduction of a day of policy debate. This change is being made in response to feedback from delegates that the opportunity for debate on issues by delegates needed to be enhanced. Federal Council considered a number of draft policy resolutions put forward by the membership, which will be further refined before distribution to delegates attending National Conference. Participation in the debate on the resolutions will be open to all AMA members attending the Conference, whether as an appointed delegate or fee-paying member.
Public health working groups brought forward a Position Statement on Men’s Health, and on Drugs in Sport. Council debated the issue of funding of access to bariatric surgery in the public health system. It also agreed to establish two new working groups to look at the issues of child abuse and neglect, and health literacy.
The Ethics and Medico Legal Committee tabled a revision to the Guidelines for Doctors on Managing Conflicts of Interest in Medicine, which was approved by Council. It is part of a wider piece of work before the Committee, looking at relationships between medical practitioners and industry.
Federal Council approved a new Position Statement on Diagnostic Imaging; and another on Resourcing Aged Care. The latter is one of the many advocacy documents in development or under review as part of the AMA’s expanded work on aged care issues. Council noted the report on the recent AMA survey of doctors’ views about providing care in aged care settings, noting the anticipated decline in the number of practitioners providing care.
A recent meeting of the Health Financing and Economics Committee had considered the issue of value based care as a model with the potential to concurrently increase hospital efficiency and improve patient outcomes. Quality data is needed to inform this work within public hospitals.
The Task Force on Indigenous Health, which advises the President on issues relevant to Indigenous health, continues its close involvement with Close the Gap initiatives. Its 2017 report card on ear health continues to be well received.
The various Councils of Federal Council provided their reports. The Council of Private Specialist Practice is monitoring the various reviews of private health insurance, including out of pocket costs and options to manage low value care in mental health and rehabilitation.
The Council of Doctors in Training (DiTs) discussed proposed reforms to bonded medical workforce schemes. The AMA has been active in influencing changes to the schemes which the Council of DiTs has strongly endorsed. The Chair of the Council of DiTs reported on the very successful AMA Medical Workforce and Training Summit held on 3 March 2018. The Summit brought together more than 70 important stakeholders in medical workforce and training to discuss the concerns of the AMA and many others in the profession with the distribution of the medical workforce, the long-standing imbalance between generalist training and sub- specialisation, the workforce position of different specialties and the growing evidence of a specialty ‘training bottleneck’ and lack of subsequent consultant positions.
The Council of General Practice tabled two Position Statements for approval. The first dealt with General Practice Accreditation and the second provides a Framework for Evaluating Appropriate Outcome Measures.
Federal Council supported a motion put forward by the Council of General Practice to endorse funding of universal catch-up vaccines through the National Immunisation Program for anyone living in Australia wishing to become up to date with clinically appropriate NIP vaccinations, irrespective of age, race, country of origin and State or Territory of residence.
The Council of Rural Doctors reported on its recent meeting with the new Rural Health Commissioner, Professor Paul Worley and discussions on the national rural generalist pathway.
The final item of business, but by no means the least important, was the adoption by Federal Council of a position statement on the National Disability Insurance Scheme, which followed a detailed discussion on the Scheme at the November meeting of Council.
Federal Council now prepares for the National Conference and its last meeting with its current membership in May. Elections are underway for several positions on the Council, evidence of increased member interest in its work.