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26 May 2018

Health Minister Greg Hunt used his AMA National Conference address to commit funding towards wound management and Human T-cell Lymphotropic Virus-1 (HTLV-1) programs.

As the keynote speaker at conference’s opening day, Mr Hunt praised the AMA, gave thanks to outgoing President Dr Michael Gannon, and repeated the Federal Government’s long-term health plan for the nation.

He wound up his remarks by announcing the new funding initiatives.

The Federal Government will provide $8 million to form a taskforce, in collaboration with the States and Territories, to combat emerging communicable diseases such as HTLV-1 in remote communities, he said.

Led by the Commonwealth’s Chief Medical Officer, Professor Brendan Murphy, the taskforce will bring together Aboriginal communities, relevant health providers, researchers, clinicians and all levels of Government.

The taskforce will investigate enhanced responses to communicable diseases, including the drivers behind the emerging prevalence of HTLV-1, a blood-borne virus, in remote communities.

It will do this in close collaboration with Aboriginal communities and develop a roadmap to respond to this issue, the Minister said.

“In terms of Indigenous health, one thing that is an unacceptable national shame is the level of transmissible sexual diseases,” Mr Hunt said.

“So the STIs and infections are at an unacceptable level. We will be investing $8 million to ensure that there is a response to the HTLV-1 virus. That’s working with Indigenous communities, under the leadership of the Chief Medical Officer and (Indigenous Heath Minister) Ken Wyatt.”

In relation to wound management, Mr Hunt recognised that it was a personal passion of many doctors.

He told conference delegates that the Government would embark on a comprehensive wound management program.

“I am referring wound management to the Medicare Taskforce for consideration,” he said.

“Secondly, there will be $1 million in relation to a wound management pilot program under the primary healthcare system. And thirdly, it will be the first priority of the new health system’s translation program under the MRFF (Medical Research Future Fund).”

The Minister also committed to legislating in the coming months with regards to medical indemnity, to ensure universal coverage and a level playing field.

That comment was received with instant applause from the conference floor.

Another welcome remark was his insistence on ending the mandatory reporting practice.

“Our doctors… are under stress, under challenge and always facing difficult issues that affect their own mental health,” he said.

“We will continue to work, and I am utterly committed, to ending the mandatory reporting practice.

“We have worked together. There are one or two States who still have some issues, but on our watch, in our time, that will become a reality that every doctor who wants and needs help will be able to seek that help without fear.”

In closing, the Minister thanked Dr Gannon for his work as the AMA President.

Calling him a friend, Mr Hunt described Dr Gannon in terms of Olympic sports.

“More a decathlete meets Greco-Roman wrestler,” he said.

“He is skilled at close quarters grappling and he usually ends up pinning his opponent.

“But at the end of the day, he's a fine doctor, a fine leader, and above all else, a fine person.”



Published: 26 May 2018