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New front opens in Defence contract battle

A shortage of accredited supervisors may be compromising the training that Australian Defence Force medical officers receive, potentially undermining the safety and quality of services.The AMA has learnt that several civilian accredited supervisors who have worked with ADF for many years have refused to accept controversial contractual terms offered under the new arrangements put in place by Medibank Health Solutions, undermining the training of Defence Force GP registrars.

25 Mar 2013

A shortage of accredited supervisors may be compromising the training that Australian Defence Force medical officers receive, potentially undermining the safety and quality of services.

The AMA has learnt that several civilian accredited supervisors who have worked with ADF for many years have refused to accept controversial contractual terms offered under the new arrangements put in place by Medibank Health Solutions, undermining the training of Defence Force GP registrars.

In a sign that the standoff between MHS and specialists over ADF medical service contracts is now starting to affect the training and supervision of ADF GP registrars, practitioners and regional training providers have contacted the AMA to warn there has been a loss of accredited supervisors.

In the absence of properly qualified supervisors, ADF health facilities face the prospect of losing their training accreditation, increasing the challenge for ADF GP registrars in satisfying their training requirements.

In addition to the loss of accredited supervisors, there is concern that new contracts for Defence Force GPs focus on service delivery rather than training and supervisions.

The AMA understands these issues have been raised with the ADF’s Joint Health Command, but have yet to be resolved.

The Association warned that if the problem becomes widespread, it could leave many registrars in the difficult position of failing to satisfy relevant College training requirements – which is already challenging for ADF GP registrars because of the complex environment in which they work.

A Medical Journal of Australia study published two years ago found that those undertaking military medical training faced a “complex array” of military and civilian primary health training programs that were conducted concurrently, often with little coordination between them.

According to the study, registrars received “variable support” from their ADF and civilian supervisors, who often struggled to understand their counterpart systems. Their training was further complicated by regular overseas postings, and the need to adapt to working in a military primary health care setting rather than in a civilian hospital-based system.
The AMA said that, given these existing training challenges, the last thing ADF GP registrars needed was uncertainty about the availability of accredited supervision.

The Association warned the issue had the potential to compromise patient safety and quality of care, and has sought clarification from both MHS and General Practice Education and Training about the extent of the problem, and action being taken to address it.

MHS, which is Medibank Private’s health provider offshoot, last year won a $1.3 billion, four-year contract to provide on-base health services to 80,000 ADF personnel and their families.

An AMA survey of members has found widespread objection among practitioners to the terms offered by MHS to be recognised as a preferred specialist provider.

The AMA found that less than one in 10 specialists had accepted the MHS offer, which involved a dramatic cut in fees, onerous reporting requirements and compromised referral authority.

AR     


Published: 25 Mar 2013