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01 Dec 2017

Federal Council met in Canberra on 17/18 November. The meeting came in the midst of the political uncertainty arising from measures to deal with the citizenship status of federal politicians, the voluntary assisted dying debates in the parliaments of Victoria and NSW, and the strong majority poll in favour of same sex marriage reform announced during that week. 

The President reported on his activities over the past three months since the last meeting of Council in August. Among the highlights were his attendance at the meeting of Confederation of Medical Associations in Asia and Oceania (CMAAO) in Tokyo in September and the Council meeting and General Assembly of the World Medical Association (WMA) in Chicago in October. The WMA adopted a modernised version of the Declaration of Geneva which was also adopted by Federal Council at its November meeting.

The Secretary General’s report focused on the breadth of submissions, Parliamentary committee appearances, and inquiries to which the secretariat has responded in the last few months, continuing a trend observed throughout 2017.

These included a submission on the security of Medicare cards; several reviews of training funding arrangements and workforce distribution; improving Medicare compliance; secondary use of Medicare data; coordinated advocacy with State and Territory AMAs to change the requirements for mandatory reporting under the National Law; medical indemnity changes; codeine scheduling changes; and ongoing negotiations with Minister Hunt on several issues including the future funding of after hours GP services.

The AMA’s engagement with the MBS Review process and the Private Health Ministerial Advisory Committee continue. Federal Council noted the release by Minister Hunt during October of the first tranche of reforms to private health insurance. Key reform areas remain under review including the scope of benefit cover in the proposed gold, silver, bronze, and basic policies; insurance cover of private patients in public hospitals; and a process to improve transparency of medical fees and out of pocket costs. This latter subject was a focus for discussion by the Council in one of its two policy sessions.

In considering an approach to improved transparency of medical fees and out of pocket costs, Federal Council noted the Government’s proposal to establish an expert working group to consider the most effective way to communicate medical fees and out of pocket costs. Federal Council also noted that informed financial consent was key but not uniformly practiced. Federal Council reiterated its position statement in support of doctors charging an amount appropriate to the service and the patient, while condemning excessive charging. Federal Council agreed principles to guide AMA input into the expert working group.

Federal Council noted the array of AMA’s public health advocacy including an appearance before a parliamentary inquiry into e-cigarettes and consideration of the AMA’s broader tobacco advocacy. Federal Council approved two public health position statements, one dealing with nutrition and the other, road safety. The Council passed unanimously a motion calling on greater transparency of the conditions under which the asylum seekers and refugees on Manus Island are being held and offering an independent assessment by doctors of the health situation.

Continuing areas of public health policy attention include men’s health, sexual diversity and gender identity, and social determinants of health. A new working group was established to review the AMA position statement on drugs in sport.

Federal Council received a presentation from Scott McNaughton, General Manager of Participation Pathway Design with the National Disability Insurance Agency (NDIA) in the second policy session. Councillors were interested to learn about the role of medical practitioners in providing NDIS assessments; and the processes to access appropriate medical and psychosocial supports for people with mental illness. The presentation provided essential information and highlighted the steps underway by NDIA to fully implement the NDIS.

The Equity, Inclusion and Diversity Committee of Council reported that it proposes to publish an annual report on progress to achieve equity, inclusion, and diversity in the AMA.

Federal Council received a report on the successful forum in October on reducing the risk of suicide in the medical profession which was convened jointly by Federal AMA, AMA NSW and Doctors Health Services Pty Limited. The two key themes that came from the forum were the impact of culture and the need for compassion. A full report will be published in due course.

At the conclusion of the meeting the Secretary General reminded Federal Council that 2018 is an election year for positions on the Council, with a call for nominations to go out to all voting members in February. Federal Council draws its standing from its representative structure, with representation of members from across the country, and all specialties and stages of practice.

Dr Beverley Rowbotham
Chair Federal Council

Published: 01 Dec 2017