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Service acknowledged at the highest levels

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Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull put it in a nutshell when he told doctors they were dedicated to service.

Addressing the AMA’s National Conference in Melbourne on May 27, Mr Turnbull captured the theme of the three-day event when he put down his speaking notes to express appreciation for the medical profession.

“You’ve committed yourselves to a life of service – undiluted. A commitment. A compassion. We thank you for it,” he said.

“Our health system is the envy of the world. Our skilled doctors, our nurses, all your allied professionals, work tirelessly to give the best possible care and your Government thanks you for that.

“Thank you for your dedication, thank you for your professionalism, thank you for your compassion.

“We will match you with a commitment to ensure that you have the resources at every level to continue to deliver the practical love that keeps Australians well.”

The Prime Minister was the star attraction at the conference, which was bursting with high-profile and influential speakers who gathered to further the debate on the nation’s healthcare policies.

Opposition Leader Bill Shorten addressed the conference and also thanked the medical profession for its commitment.

But he added his observation the Government was trying to silence doctors with its staggered thawing of the Medicare rebate freeze.

 “If you like, it’s the minimum they can get away with paying to keep people silent,” Mr Shorten said.

“It’s like cash for no comment.

“I believe the Government has got a calculus here. What is the minimum they can pay to make healthcare issues go away as an election point?”

The AMA has praised the Budget decision to lift the freeze, while also noting the announcement wasn’t everything doctors had hoped for.

AMA President Dr Michael Gannon added that the Government – or any political party – should not be fooled into believing the AMA will be quiet about advocating for issues it believes in.

Health Minister Greg Hunt repeated his praise for doctors while again outlining his plan for the national health system.

Shadow Health Minister Catherine King expressed Labor’s commitment to public hospital funding and to an immediate blanket lifting of the Medicare rebate freeze.

Greens Leader Richard Di Natale, a doctor himself, poured praise on the profession – noting the strong and positive stance the AMA has taken on marriage equality, while also delivering a caution over messaging around climate change policy.

Minister for Indigenous Health and Aged Care Ken Wyatt joined in on two policy sessions; Olympic and Commonwealth Games athlete Jane Flemming illuminated a panel on tackling obesity; news and media personalities Paul Bongiorno and Julie McCrossin moderated separate policy sessions; and actors presented an excerpt of a new play Women Doctors in War.

Beyond the valuable contributions the high-profile personalities made to the National Conference, the event was also well-served by a string of other guest speakers and panellists, as well as by the AMA leadership.

The conference addressed in detail many of the serious issues confronting the medical profession, including doctors’ health and wellbeing; disease and threats beyond borders; organ donation; obesity; health care in violent situations; and tobacco control.

Chris Johnson