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It’s Time … to advocate for our patients

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A few weeks ago the suspense finally ended when the Federal Election was called for

7 September.

As I write, the election coverage is being dominated by the economy and jobs. Surprisingly, major health reform has been largely left out of the policy debate so far.

Hopefully this state of affairs will change. My patients are certainly telling me that the cost of medical care and access to quality treatment are important issues for them as voters in the upcoming ballot. 

On a positive note, the Government’s recent decision to defer the introduction of the proposed $2,000 cap on work-related self-education expenses until July 2015 was very gratifying for the AMA and the Scrap the Cap Alliance that lobbied against this ill-informed measure.

Hopefully, the common sense shown on this issue will extend to informed decisions on health post-election, regardless of who forms the next Government.

The decision on the cap shows how effective a well-targeted lobbying campaign can be.

And there is perhaps no better time to lobby and advocate for our patients and profession than during an election contest.

There are quite a few things on my election wish list.

One of them is better care for our patients with chronic diseases by giving them more time with their GPs and improving coordination of health and support services.

The AMA’s Chronic Disease Plan: Improving Care for Patients with Chronic and Complex Care Needs sets out ways we can improve the treatment of people with complex and chronic disease in primary care. It’s certainly worthy of the next Government’s consideration.

All GPs know that the indexation of Medicare rebates has not kept pace with the rising costs of providing care, pushing more of the health care cost onto doctors and our patients. Proper and realistic indexation of Medicare rebates is urgently needed.

The next Government must also act quickly to ensure there are enough GPs to meet future health needs by boosting training places.

Access and affordability, general practice infrastructure, PBS authority … I could go on.

Lobbying local candidates on issues such as these during the election campaign can help the AMA’s efforts to ensure the best outcomes for our patients. It is an opportunity to inform and educate the present and next group of Federal parliamentarians on the type of health system that we want.

Here’s how you can get involved during the election campaign to make sure the issues affecting you and your patients are given high priority by all sides of politics.

Get feedback from your patients on what’s concerning them. Organise a meeting with your local member and the other candidates. Send a letter to the editor of your local newspaper. Get in touch with the local media. Attend public campaign events in your electorate.

The ABC election website has lists of electorates and standing candidates:  http://www.abc.net.au/news/federal-election-2013/guide/

To support you in these activities, the AMA has developed a campaign kit that provides our members with background information on the key general practice issues for the election, talking points for lobbying, a sample letter to the editor, and handouts for candidates.

These resources are available at: election-campaign-kit-gps

You can also ask your State/Territory AMA branch to help you arrange direct face-to-face meetings with sitting members and standing candidates. 

I urge all GPs to get out there and be amongst it during the final weeks of the campaign. No matter if your electorate is marginal or safe, speak to your local candidates, have your voice heard, and advocate for your patients.