THE following is an extract from an editorial by Dr Annette Katelaris, editor of the Medical Journal of Australia, published in the current issue of the MJA. It discusses the new editor’s plans to develop the MJA as a forum for doctors to debate issues relevant to them.
THERE are too many medical issues that play out in the public media before the profession has a chance to consider or respond.
A prime example has been the coverage of prescribing rights for non-doctors. Other important issues include the delivery of effective and efficient health care, the planning for, and training of, our medical workforce, and the improvement of Indigenous health outcomes.
Our engagement in this process will determine the degree to which we remain an independent and vital profession and will also help to improve health outcomes for the community.
One crucial issue is health funding.
Currently, Australia spends over 9% of its gross domestic product on health, increasing at up to 0.5% per annum. The population is ageing and demands on the health system are increasing, necessitating hard choices with respect to the way a limited health budget is spent.
As doctors, we need to understand the opportunity costs of ordering a test or admitting an elderly patient to intensive care. In this way, we can participate in decisions involving the allocation of funds within the health budget.
The MJA is the appropriate forum for this informed conversation. Discussion about the practice of medicine needs to continue.
Good medical practice: a code of conduct for doctors in Australia, adopted by the new Medical Board of Australia, was developed with little discussion within the profession. How this code is implemented is yet to be defined, and we should take this opportunity to explore and, perhaps, refine the way we practise.
This debate should include doctors’ contributions to the public health care system, the organisation of medical practices, billing practices and time spent with patients, and the complexities of patient education and obtaining informed consent.
Our future doctors also need to be included.
The full article, which includes this extract, of the editorial by Dr Annette Katelaris, editor of the Medical Journal of Australia, is available on the MJA website.
This article is reproduced from the MJA with permission.
Posted 21 February 2011