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Time for government to set out its third term health agenda.





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Following the AMA Federal Council's first meeting of the year, which concluded at the weekend, the AMA's Federal President, Dr Kerryn Phelps, said today it is time the Government set out its third term health policy agenda.  


The AMA Federal Council is the peak policy forum representing the interests of more than 27,000 doctors - GPs, specialists, salaried doctors and doctors-in-training - and their patients.  


"If the new Health Minister's negative response last week to the AMA's GP workforce survey is any indication, community health needs are not on the Government's priority list," Dr Phelps said.  


"Patients in rural Australia are missing out on access to quality GP services as a result of shortages in suburban and rural areas.  


"Many patients and whole communities will in the future miss out on the general practice care that they need and which others in Australia take for granted.  


"In fact, as our survey shows, towns, suburbs and regions are suffering from that GP shortage now.  


"The national shortage of doctors is just one problem facing our health system.  


"The AMA has set a clear agenda for the future of health policy in Australia.  


"It supports the needs of patients and doctors, and it should have the support of Government," Dr Phelps said.  


High priority issues agreed by the AMA Federal Council include:  

•  Fragmentation of patient care


A consequence of the break-up of GP funding and a massive increase in red tape.


The AMA calls on the Government to examine every dollar the Health Department is spending on general practice and ensure it is going onto the rebates for those patients most in need, instead of the Government putting money into ad hoc schemes for the short term.  

GP training  

The fall in applications for GP training positions, particularly for rural training positions, is a consequence of uncertainty and inflexibility in the system. Young doctors are concerned that if they accept rural training places, they will never be able to practise elsewhere. The new GP training system appears fragmented, rigid and the very opposite of 'doctor friendly'.  

Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme


The AMA recognises the costs of the scheme are growing and potentially could blow out. The answer is a more careful approach to the screening and determination of the drugs that should be listed, provision of timely information for doctors on prescribing of new medications, and ensuring that the eligibility of patients for the lowest cost drugs is based on real need.


•  Complementary Medicine


The Government must adopt a scientific approach to complementary medicine. The AMA recognises that more and more Australians, including a growing number of doctors, are taking an active interest in complementary medicine. The Government must offer doctors and patients a scientific, analytical approach to complementary medicines and the claims of complementary medical practitioners.


•  Health expenditure


The AMA calls for an audit of health expenditure under former Health Minister, Dr Michael Wooldridge. This follows revelations in Senate Estimates hearings that money had been transferred from specialist outreach programs and an asthma program in order to provide funding for the Royal Australian College of General Practitioners (RACGP) to move its headquarters from Melbourne to Canberra.



Dr Phelps said funding commitments must be based on public need and getting the best value for the money with an increasingly tight health budget.  


"There needs to be a careful audit to assess the justification for the RACGP funding, whether it was in the public interest, and whether it is still justified," Dr Phelps said.


•  The removal of asylum seekers from Manus Island


The AMA backs the call from the College of Physicians to move asylum seekers from Manus Island, PNG. Keeping asylum seekers in a known malaria prone area is against all the principles of good public health.



Dr Phelps said the AMA will seeking further meetings with the Minister for Health and Ageing to discuss these high priority issues.  


CONTACT: John Flannery (02) 6270 5477 / (0419) 494 761  



24 February 2002

AMA Public Affairs Department: John Flannery (Director) 0419 494 761, Sarah Crichton 0419 440 076, and Josie Hill  

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