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AMA Transcript - AMA President, A/Prof Brian Owler, 774 ABC Melbourne, 2 June 2014

02 Jun 2014

Transcript: AMA President, A/Prof Brian Owler, 774 ABC Melbourne, 2 June 2014

Subject: GP co-payments


JON FAINE: Tony Abbott and Joe Hockey's Budget is still enduring a somewhat painful birth. This morning the AMA, the doctors' association, are prepared to lay on the line their concerns and objections as the dust settles, in particular, in relation to the $7 co-payment. Associate Professor Brian Owler is a paediatric neurosurgeon, he's the newly elected President of the AMA, the doctor's association.

Brian, good morning to you.

BRIAN OWLER: Good morning.

JON FAINE: We've only got four minutes for this. Yeah well, that's right. So, this is going to be exactly the problem. So, you know, what we're going to see is that those patients that we know can't afford to pay the co-payment are going to be bulk billed, and doctors are not going to be able to sustain their practices and forgo $13 per consultation in order to be able to absorb those sorts of costs and that means…

JON FAINE: This is going to impact in particular in poor communities in quite a - well, difficult way. I mean basically doctors will withdraw if they can't make a living in a poor suburb, they'll just presumably, pack up and move somewhere else. And it's a bit like the premise upon which university funding seems to be changing which is well, people are going to have to dig deeper but there are people in the community and sadly many of them who just have no capacity to dig deeper, even if they want to.

BRIAN OWLER: Exactly, and that is the problem. So, we assume that all practices are exactly the same, seeing the same sorts of patients, but we know that they are servicing groups that are poorer, that have higher burdens of chronic disease are those that you generally use bulk billing for a very large proportion of their patients. Those practices and their viability is under threat by this system, and it's not just about the doctors and their practices. It's about the actual provision of health care to those groups that are least able to afford a reduction in their access to healthcare services.

JON FAINE: Are you a screaming leftie, is that what's motivating you and your colleagues? Is this coming from a bleeding heart Labor Party front group? Is the AMA suddenly now transformed into a bunch of chardonnay sipping, socialist tosspots?

BRIAN OWLER: No, absolutely not. So - and what I've said all along is GP - the AMA supports a co-payment system but it's got to have the protections for those most vulnerable in our society. I think one thing that distinguishes the AMA's professional organisation is that not only do we look after our members, our doctors, and we need to make sure that we're able to practice and be rewarded for doing that, but we have an altruism and a social conscience to make sure that our patients are put first and that their heath care is maintained and we get the best outcome for them.

JON FAINE: Well, that was nearly seven minutes, so that's an extended consultation. Brian, we will see if the Government's listening and if they're prepared to negotiate or adjust or change the policy settings, or if not then what it might mean for the nation. We shall watch and see. Thank you for your time this morning.

BRIAN OWLER: It's a pleasure Jon. Thank you.

JON FAINE: I'll let you get back to your patients. Associate Professor Brian Owler. He's a neurosurgeon but he's the newly elected President of the AMA.


2 June 2014


CONTACT:        John Flannery                     02 6270 5477 / 0419 494 761

                            Odette Visser                      02 6270 5464 / 0427 209 753

Published: 02 Jun 2014