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Setting a standard for service

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In the latest instalment of an occasional series looking at the notable contribution made by AMA members, Australian Medicine profiles Melbourne-based orthopaedic surgeon Dr Bruce Love.

Ask the average orthopaedic surgeon about the kilovolt efficiency of electricity transformers or the temperature rating of bitumen, and you would most likely draw a blank.

Unless, that is, you are talking with Melbourne-based orthopaedic surgeon Dr Bruce Love.

After representing the AMA at Standards Australia Council meetings for more than 20 years, Dr Love has developed an uncommon level of familiarity with the technical details of everything from stairways and ladders to power grids and electrical wheelchairs.

Not that this was ever his intention.

When the-then AMA President Dr Bruce Shepherd approached him in the early 1990s to be the AMA’s delegate at Standards Australia, Dr Love agreed out because he thought it important for the Association to be involved in setting standards, particularly as they pertained to medical devices and equipment.

The surgeon freely admits that often the Council deliberates on technical issues and standards that are of little interest or relevance for the medical profession. For instance, it is hard to see that the AMA would have much to offer in discussions about the temperature at which pavement bitumen glues and holds together.

As Dr Love put it, “unfortunately, attending the annual [Council] meeting means that one sits in a lecture room for two or more hours and listens to various reports from worthwhile folk which, when one is not intimately involved with the executive team, has little impact”.

But the AMA’s presence is not merely for show.

“I think the AMA is an important organisation, and it needs to be represented at Standards Australia, because there are an enormous number of health standards out there,” Dr Love said.

In the two decades he has been attending such meetings, across the country and internationally, Dr Love has contributed to the development of standards for an array of medical devices and equipment, most particularly orthopaedic implants.

Early on, he said, this work was particularly significant because Australia was “a bit of a leader” internationally in developing technical standards.

But more recently, the focus of his involvement has shifted, and he now devotes a considerable amount of his time as the AMA’s nominee on the Department of Health’s Prostheses List Advisory Committee.

Dr Love’s work on the Committee involves scrutinising and assessing artificial hips, breast implants, knee replacements and other prostheses for their utility and safety.

He said that, whereas prostheses listed on the Medicare Benefits Schedule had to be approved by the Therapeutic Goods Administration, the Committee had responsibility for listing devices whose use could be covered by private health insurers.

Dr Love said the Committee had become more demanding than the TGA in the robustness of the evidence companies needed to provide in order to have their product approved for listing.

As his involvement in the work of the Committee has developed, Dr Love has felt the need to relinquish his representative role at Standards Australia, and he formally resigned his position late last year.

The AMA has invited expressions of interest from members interested in representing the Association at the Standards Australia Council.

All up, more than 40 members represent the AMA on 120 committees, panels, working groups and fora, making sure the voice of doctors is heard on issues affecting the medical profession and the health and wellbeing of patients and the broader community.

Adrian Rollins