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Year of major change in health and the AMA

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In preparing for the upcoming meeting of the Board of Australian Medical Association Limited, I was reflecting on the changes that have taken place this year and the lift in tempo of activities within the secretariat.

There isn’t one change that I can identify which has created the momentum but a combination.

At the start of 2014, I foreshadowed to the staff in the secretariat that this would be a year of substantial change, and that we would not really know the impact until the end of the year. The major developments have included:

  • the adoption of a new Constitution by both Australian Medical Association Limited (the parent company of the AMA) and its wholly-owned subsidiary Australasian Medical Publishing Company Pty Limited (AMPCo – the publisher of the Medical Journal of Australia and the Medical Directory of Australia);
  • the establishment of a new Board for both AMA and AMPCo;
  • the adoption of governance documents including By Laws, a Board Charter, and a Board Protocol;
  • the establishment of a new structure for Federal Council and its committees to enhance the work of Federal Council as the centre of medico-political debate;
  • the development of a mission statement and strategic objectives for the AMA (which will be published to members following the November meeting of Federal Council);
  • the recruitment of a Human Resources Manager to assist in driving organisational improvement;
  • the development of a shared IT resource across the AMA Group, adding depth and skill in IT projects, and providing improved services. A new website will be launched before the end of the year, with improved member information and search capability;
  • increased capacity and capability in the membership and marketing team, with tools and resources under development to better support members, such as the new Careers Advisory Service;
  • the recruitment of a Public Health Campaign Manager to support a shift to campaign-style public health advocacy. The recent National Alcohol Summit provided a good example of the change in emphasis for the AMA’s approach to public health; and
  • a major refurbishment project to upgrade the core services in AMA House, to make the building more functional and energy-efficient.

While these organisational changes have been taking place, the AMA has continued its place at the front and centre of medico-political advocacy.

A new President and Vice President elected in May are the first with fixed two-year terms. The President was elected to bring fresh energy and ideas to the AMA.

In politics, the year has been dominated by the Federal Government’s announcements in the 2014 Budget, particularly the proposal to introduce a $7 co-payment for general practice, pathology, and diagnostic imaging services.

The AMA has led a campaign against the unfair nature of the proposal and the impact which it will have on the quality delivery of these services.

The AMA developed an alternative model which reflected some of the ‘signals’ that the Government wanted to introduce, but which also protected those patients who are most vulnerable and least likely to access medical services if a fee is attached.

The co-payment battle continues.

Among the many major policy developments announced during the year have been the proposal to introduce changes in the funding of higher education, which will have an inordinate impact on those wishing to study medicine; the abolition of Medicare Locals and the proposal to introduce Primary Health Networks; and changes to the training of GP registrars.

On all of these issues the AMA has been active in its advocacy.

While the AMA will examine proposals on their merits, the AMA does not accept changes that undermine the quality of health care, no matter what form they take.

While it seems very early, my best wishes for a peaceful and enjoyable holiday season.