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Collateral damage to soldiers and doctors under new defence health arrangements

18 Dec 2012

An AMA survey of 835 medical specialists has revealed a potential crisis in access to specialist medical care for Australian Defence Force (ADF) personnel as a result of new arrangements for Defence health services.

In June this year, Medibank Health Solutions (MHS) was awarded a four-year contract by the Government to provide health services for ADF personnel.

Following this decision, MHS announced that it would establish preferred provider networks for a range of health providers, including off-base medical specialists.

According to MHS, on-base medical officers would be actively encouraged to refer ADF personnel to off-base medical specialists who signed a contract to be part of the preferred provider network.

The AMA survey suggests that fewer than one in ten specialists have signed a contract to be part of the new preferred provider network being implemented by MHS.

The survey reveals that of the 72.55 per cent of respondents who said that they had previously provided specialist medical care for ADF personnel, only 8.86 per cent have agreed to be part of the MHS-preferred provider network.

AMA President, Dr Steve Hambleton, said today that the survey shows that the new arrangements are simply not good enough.

“The new arrangements put Defence personnel and their doctors in a worse situation than the previous system,” Dr Hambleton said.

“The soldiers may end up with poorer access to the quality health care they deserve, and the hardworking doctors who have been looking after Defence personnel for years are being asked to do more for less.

“It is of particular concern that the MHS arrangements appear to be demeaning and disenfranchising many medical specialists who have been dedicated providers of care to ADF personnel.

“It looks like around 90 per cent of these highly committed doctors, often with specialist expertise in caring for defence personnel, have made the decision to walk away from the provision of Defence health services.

“The net result of the new system is that ADF personnel may have less choice, poorer access to specialist care, and there will be a significant loss of specialists who have a strong understanding of the health needs of ADF members.

“Our Defence personnel deserve better.

“The ADF and MHS failed to consult with the medical profession before implementing a network that requires medical specialists to sign contracts that are one-sided and have an impact on privacy and clinical independence.

“MHS has also cut fees so that in many cases they will be lower than those paid for patients under various workers’ compensation and transport accident schemes.

“The fees are also well below the AMA recommended schedule of fees for these services.

“This devalues the health needs of serving personnel and fails to recognise the importance of ensuring that these personnel are fit and well for active duty.

“We urge the Government, the ADF and MHS to urgently consult the medical profession to develop more sustainable arrangements that will underpin the continued delivery of high quality health services to Defence personnel.”

The survey results are available at https://ama.com.au/medical-services-defence-personnel-report-summary-results


18 December 2012

CONTACT:         John Flannery                       02 6270 5477 / 0419 494 761
                             Kirsty Waterford                  02 6270 5464 / 0427 209 753

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Published: 18 Dec 2012