AMA key advocacy wins during 2016
The AMA constantly advocates on behalf of general practitioners and rural health. The AMA has been successful in a number of policy areas.
- PIP Digital Health Incentive – the AMA successfully lobbied the Government to allow general practices more time to comply with the requirement for GPs to upload Shared Health Summaries to the My Health Record and successfully argued for a more modest SHS upload target.
- Red tape issues – Following pressure from the AMA, the Department of Human Services has clarified Medical Evidence requirements for Disability Support Pension claims and detailed the circumstances where GPs can claim remuneration for the paperwork involved.
- PBS Authorities – An Online PBS Authority system has been introduced to reduce the need for GPs to spend time waiting on the phone for an authority. The Government is also committed to integrating this initiative into practice management systems.
- Health Care Homes – Based on member feedback, the AMA has given cautious support to the Government’s vision for a Health Care Home. While it represents a potential revolution to the treatment of chronic disease in general practice and recognises the central role of GPs, the AMA has highlighted the potential risks of proposed changes and ensured that the HCH will be trialled and evaluated before being rolled out more broadly.
- Pharmacists in General Practice - the AMA developed a proposal to integrate non-dispensing pharmacists within general practices. A research trial is now underway in 14 general practices in Queensland to assess the benefits of this concept and the results will help build the case for Commonwealth funding in the longer term.
- After-Hours – to address PIP eligibility concerns from some rural practices utilising triage services for their after-hours calls, the AMA worked to ensure that practices in RRMAs 5-7 could use localised nurse triage services and still be eligible for the after-hours PIP incentive.
- Pathology Collection Centre Rental Reform – Following strong representation from the AMA, the Government agreed to delay planned changes to the definition of market value in the Health Insurance Act to allow further consultation with general practice as well as the pathology sector.
- National Terms and Conditions for the Employment of Registrars (NTCER). The AMA brokered agreement between the General Practice Registrars Australia (GPRA) and General Practice Supervisors Australia (GPSA) 2017 NTCER. The NTCER details working conditions for GP registrars and is considered to provide a fair outcome for both training practices and registrars.
Medical Workforce and Training
- With growing pressure on the medical training pipeline, the AMA has continued to oppose proposals to create additional medical school places. The Government has now publicly recognised these concerns and agreed that future changes to medical school places should focus on the distribution of places, as opposed to additional places.
- The Department of Education and Training reviewed the Skilled Occupations List, which is used to underpin independent applications for permanent residency. Following AMA representations, a number of medical occupations have been flagged for removal from the SOL, recognising the growth in locally trained graduate numbers.
- Following sustained advocacy from the AMA, there is now broad stakeholder support for the implementation of a National Training Survey to provide more timely and comprehensive data to inform workforce and medical education and training policy and planning, and measure of the quality of the medical education and training. The Medical Board of Australia has promised funding support, with an NTS having the potential to help address ongoing concerns about bullying and harassment in the profession.
- The COAG National Review of Medical Intern Training delivered its report at the end of 2015. The AMA argued against radical reforms and proposed changes remain on hold while the report is further considered.
- The AMA successfully opposed reforms seeking to establish co-funded GP training places, highlighting serious issues such as conflicts of interest, diversity of training settings and the protection of registrars.
- Following representations from the AMA, the Government agreed to be more accommodating in applying return of service obligations on medical graduates enrolled in the Bonded Medical Places (BMP) program and the Medical Rural Bonded Scholarship Scheme (MRBS), particularly those who need to upskill in otherwise ineligible locations.
- Responding to pre-Budget speculation that the Government would reform to the tax treatment of work-related expenses, the AMA successfully urged the Government to back away from changes tax deductions for work-related self-education expenses, including caps on deductions.
Rural Health Care
- The AMA ensured that the under-spend in the Rural and Regional Training Infrastructure Grants Program stayed in general practice and successfully worked to have the program redesigned program so that more practices would be encouraged to participate.
- The AMA supported the Government’s plan to appoint a National Rural Health Commissioner, whose role will include developing a National Rural Generalist Pathway. The AMA has long advocated for the establishment of a national rural generalist pathway and looks forward to working with the Commissioner, when appointed, on this important initiative.
- The AMA, through its subsidiary company, Doctors’ Health Services Pty Ltd, coordinated the roll out of Medical Board funding to support the establishment of accessible and consistent doctors’ health services across the country. National coverage was achieved by the end of 2016, with DrHS working closely with existing state/territory based services.
Published: 17 Mar 2017