Issue 04, Number 30 - 13 August 2004


AMA position on after hours, call centres and fundholding
AMA Vice-President, Dr Mukesh Haikerwal, this week released three key AMA Position Statements to assist the major parties produce general practice policies that will deliver accessible and affordable primary medical services to all Australians.

The AMA Position Statements are:
· Out-Of-Hours Primary Medical Care (recommended by AMACGP and approved by Executive Council, 6 August)
· Call Centre Triage and Advice Services (recommended by AMACGP and approved by Executive Council, 6 August)
· Fundholding (recommended by AMACGP and approved by Federal Council, 31 May)

Dr Haikerwal said the statements set out in detail the AMA's views and recommendations on these important areas of primary medical care provision from the GP and patient perspectives.

Dr Haikerwal said a number of GP policies released by the Government and the Opposition - especially their after-hours GP services policies - miss the mark because of lack of consultation and a failure to consider the impact on existing GP services in the community.
"These policies do not pass the access and affordability tests," Dr Haikerwal said.

"But perhaps the biggest mistake is producing policies whose success depends on doctors who do not exist. They fail to acknowledge the extent of the national medical workforce shortage. Not only are there fewer doctors overall, there is uneven distribution, and more and more GPs are choosing to work part time. This is exacerbating the access problem. The key to successful GP policy that will best serve patients and communities is to support and sustain the GPs and other medical services already in the system. Instead we are seeing policies that in some cases will compete with existing services - forcing many out of business - instead of complementing them.

"Our Position Statements seek to build on successful programs and systems that have proven success at the local grassroots level. We want the Government and the Opposition to build on these successes in close consultation with the people who know the local needs and conditions - the doctors, the nurses, other healthcare professionals, and the patients. We also make clear our strong opposition to policies like fundholding, and explain why they will not work in the Australian situation.

"The AMA recommendations are based on local knowledge, commonsense and responsible use of taxpayer money. We urge the Government and the Opposition to embrace our recommendations in their policy formulation for the coming election," Dr Haikerwal said.

All of the position statements can be found at

Review of Priority Assistance
Telstra's Priority Assistance Arrangements are being reviewed. Priority Assistance provides enhanced connection and fault repair services to people with a diagnosed life-threatening medical condition who are at risk of suffering a rapid, life-threatening deterioration in their condition. It is designed to ensure that they have access to a reliable, fully operational home telephone if they need to call for assistance. Comments on the efficiency and effectiveness of Telstra's Priority Assistance Arrangements can be sent to or to Priority Assistance Service Review Team, PO Box 13120, Law Courts, Melbourne VIC 8010. Submissions close 16 Septemeber 2004.

Additional Resources