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14 Mar 2018


In preparing for a speech to a summit on women’s health hosted by RANZCOG on March 2, I was contemplating the breadth of health policy that the AMA tackles in its advocacy. The AMA covers the bread and butter issues that impact the professional practices of doctors such as Medicare funding, private health insurance and the future of the private health system, the distribution and support for the medical workforce, and training of the next generation.

The AMA also covers issues relevant to the society in which doctors practise through its advocacy on behalf of patients, and the public health concerns of those patients.

Federal AMA is often called upon to outline the work that has been undertaken for specific subgroups of members in order to substantiate the value proposition of membership. I have written previously in my column that the AMA’s advocacy supports all doctors, the difference being that not all doctors choose to pay a membership subscription.

While this does not mean that the AMA restricts its advocacy, it does sometimes affect the range of advocacy that can be undertaken and, for the State and Territory AMAs, it can limit the services available to members.

The AMA’s advocacy, as outlined in its Constitution, has two primary objectives: 

  • To preserve, maintain, promote and advance the intellectual, philosophical, social, political, economic and legal interests of members; and
  • To promote the wellbeing of patients and take an active part in the promotion of health care programs for the benefit of the community and to participate in the resolution of major social and community health issues.

Members will have received the Christmas message from Federal President Dr Michael Gannon in late December. The message highlights the range of work that was undertaken for members during 2017. The Annual Report to be released in April similarly highlights the breadth of AMA advocacy.

I am looking forward to the National Conference in May which, for the first time, will include a day of debate on topical policy issues that reflect these objectives of the AMA.

The topics for debate are sourced from the State and Territory AMAs, and the Councils of Federal AMA. Federal Council will consider the draft motions at its meeting in March before the final selection is sent to delegates attending National Conference.

Federal Council and the Federal AMA Board are keen to encourage increased member participation in the formulation of policy. I have written previously about my experience at the annual delegates meeting of the American Medical Association and its ‘democracy in action’. Debate is robust with differing views often strongly, but respectfully, argued. The British Medical Association at its annual meeting takes a similar approach.

National Conference in 2018 will provide an opportunity for a greater number of members to participate in the formulation of AMA policy, not just the appointed delegates.

While voting for the next President and Vice President, which also occurs at National Conference this year, is restricted to appointed delegates, all delegates who are members of the AMA are encouraged to participate in policy debate at the meeting.

Published: 14 Mar 2018