Annual Report 2014

20 Apr 2015

In 2014, the Australian Medical Association (AMA) made significant steps toward achieving the goals we set in the previous year. The outcomes of our efforts have been gratifying. We achieved an increase in membership and secured continuing financial stability. While these achievements are extremely important, they represent only a portion of a much larger and evolving story. 

Reflecting on 2014, the AMA can report a significant list of accomplishments contributing to the organisations road to better patient health, greater professional satisfaction and practice sustainability, and a stronger medical education environment designed to meet the challenges of 21st century medicine. Important highlights from 2014 include: 

  • Successfully campaigning against draconian Queensland public hospital contracts, adispute that at one point threatened to cripple the State’s public hospital system. Following intensive talks between the Queensland Government, the AMA, AMA Queensland and other doctor representatives, a heavily revised offer which addressed key doctor concerns was presented and agreed upon;
  • the AMA highlighted in its annual Public Hospital Report Card that the Federal Government had slowed funding for public hospitals in clear breach of its reform commitments, raising the risk of a further blowout in the delays already being faced by patients;
  • the AMA held a National Summit on the Misuse of Alcohol amid mounting community alarm about the damage caused by heavy drinking, particularly following a spate of high-profile alcohol-fuelled assaults that left several young men dead, and others severely injured. The AMA will continue to pressure the Federal Government to develop a national response to the problem; and
  • the AMA fought hard against the introduction of a GP co-payment and Medicare rebate freeze, both announced in the May Budget. The original co-payment plan included a $7 patient co-payment for GP services, and a $5 cut to the Medicare rebate. After extensive lobbying by the AMA this plan was revised, and the Government subsequently proposed to slash the rebate for GP consultations lasting less than 10 minutes, cut Medicare rebates by $5, and extend the rebate indexation freeze on the Medicare Benefits Schedule through to mid-2018. AMA President Associate Professor Brian Owler called the new plan a ‘wrecking ball’ and vowed to fight the Government’s destructive co-payment. 

On behalf of the AMA's Board, staff and our members, it is with great optimism and a sense of purpose that we look forward to the opportunities ahead. Achieving the high-quality, efficient health care system our nation needs and deserves will require leadership, tenacity and collaboration across the entire health care system. 

We embrace this challenge and look forward to serving the needs of Australia's doctors, their patients and our profession.  

A copy of the full report is available for download. Or click below to read the various sections.

President’s Report

More than the Year of the Co-Payment 

It is tempting to call 2014 the Year of the Co-payment because of the way this controversial policy debate dominated the health landscape for much of the year. 

There were rumours of the Government considering a GP co-payment back in the latter stages of 2013.This was followed by the occasional article singing its praises from one of its key backers, a former adviser to Tony Abbott when he was Health Minister. The co-payment concept took shape when it was a key recommendation to the Government by the Commission of Audit. It became reality on Budget night in May. The AMA staged a public assault on the flawed policy on an almost daily basis for the rest of the year. 

By year’s end, we had a new Health Minister and the Government had developed a revised co-payment proposal. But it was still a dud policy. The battle raged on into 2015. 

But 2014 contained many other highlights for the AMA. 

My predecessor, Steve Hambleton, had a busy start to the year by playing a leading role in forcing the Queensland Government to provide fairer contracts to hospital doctors after a long dispute. He also oversaw the launch of the AMA Public Hospital Report Card and released the very important AMA Position Statement on Women’s Health. 

He saw a pledge from the Abbott Government that there would be no new GP Super Clinics and welcomed a review of Medicare Locals, which would transform into Primary Health Networks.

I was privileged to be elected President in May, but I was already up and running in the job, having responded to the Federal Budget with the then Vice President, Professor Geoffrey Dobb. 

The Government’s co-payment announcement was one of several controversial issues to emerge from the Budget, and which would require a decisive response from the AMA. 

The AMA response to the co-payment was instant and emphatic. Our high profile opposition meant that the Government was taking notice. The Prime Minister heard our concerns and asked for an alternative proposal, which was rejected by the Government in August. Our advocacy against the policy was renewed and strengthened. 

Another major concern that was hidden away in the Budget was a significant cut in public hospital funding to the States. The AMA analysed the data and included it in its Public Hospital Report Card for release in 2015. 

As expected, the Government abolished a number of key health agencies, including Health Workforce Australia and the Australian National Preventive Health Agency. The AMA urged the Government to preserve the major functions of these agencies, especially medical workforce planning. 

Meanwhile, the AMA pressured the Government into taking stronger action to contain and control the Ebola outbreak in West Africa. Our advocacy on this cause led to the Government increasing funding assistance and, ultimately, engaging a private contractor to establish a field hospital and supply Australian volunteered doctors to provide assistance. 

A highlight was the AMA Alcohol Summit in Canberra in October, which brought together politicians and experts to develop priorities for a national response to address the harms of alcohol abuse in the community. 

The Summit built on initiatives I had been involved with in NSW on the so-called ‘one punch laws’ and liquor licensing regulations. The outcomes from the Summit will shape the AMA’s ongoing work in addressing alcohol harms. 

Work was ongoing on Indigenous health through our contributions to Close the Gap activities, and we used the media to turn the spotlight on public hospital funding, mental health, end-of-life care, and healthy food labelling via calls for reinstatement of the star rating food health website.

 Our annual tribute to GPs, Family Doctor Week, was a huge success, and I used my address to the National Press Club to raise AMA ideas to ensure the sustainability of the health system. 

Overseas, the AMA spoke out in support of our international colleagues who were imprisoned for simply doing their job, and we advocated at home for improved training pathways for the doctors of tomorrow. 

As always, we raised our concerns about the efforts of pharmacists and others to take on the role of doctors, the main example being the Pharmacy Guild’s bid to provide medical health checks in pharmacies. 

And we remained vigilant as private health insurers continued to advance their plans for managed care arrangements in Australia. I regularly issued public warnings about this unwanted approach to health service delivery, and made representations to the relevant Ministers. 

We also stood up for the health of asylum seekers and refugees, and provided commentary on the health effects of climate change. 

And, as is customary for AMA Presidents, I developed new friendships around the country, with early morning radio news journalists seeking comment on the health issues of the day.

 All this activity took place against a backdrop of significant changes in AMA governance, which is explained in detail elsewhere in this report. 

It has been a busy and productive year for the AMA, and it has been an honour for me to be busy and productive on your behalf. 

I can assure you that the next year will be equally frenetic, as all your elected representatives and Secretariat staff work tirelessly to make your AMA membership rewarding and your professional environment successful and satisfying.

Associate Professor Brian Owler

Read the President's Report as a PDF.

Secretary General’s Report

The year 2014 has been a key year in the evolution of Australian Medical Association Limited. At the

Annual General Meeting in May 2014, the members adopted a new Constitution which established a skills-based Board to manage the governance, strategy and finances of the company. After a short period with an interim Board the new Board was established, meeting for the first time at the end of July. The Board members are the President, Vice President, and representatives of each State and Territory AMA, and the Council of Doctors in Training. 

One of the early actions of the new Board was to develop a strategic plan to cover the period 2014 to 2017. The Board adopted a mission statement which reflects the AMA’s purpose: Leading Australia’s doctors – Promoting Australia’s health. A separate report on the Board’s activities is found in this Annual Report. 

The constitutional change enabled Federal Council to focus its work on medico-political policy matters. In its revised role, Federal Council has become much more effective in the early stages of policy development, both informed by, and informing, the work of the Council’s committees and the AMA’s external engagement. 

At a policy level, the work of the secretariat in 2014 was dominated by the response required to combat the consequences of the Federal Budget in May, which impacted significantly on health funding. The advocacy was constant throughout the year. The engagement with members across the country was prolific, with more correspondence received on the proposed changes to Medicare than any recent issue. 

Public health remained a key policy objective, with a shift in focus towards running public health campaigns. A successful National Alcohol Summit was held in October, drawing together a broad-based group of interests. The Summit issued a communiqué at the end of two days of discussion, calling on the Federal Government to take leadership in developing policies to address the harms caused by excessive use of alcohol. 

Increased digital engagement was a feature of 2014. Social media has become an essential element of the AMA’s communications, with both Twitter and Facebook adding to the reach of the AMA’s advocacy. AMA TV was created to provide content via the website and social media to carry the AMA’s messages from the President and other leaders. 

At the end of 2014 the revamped AMA website was launched, providing ‘homes’ for different member segments. Doctorportal was also launched during 2014 and over time will become the location for information, tools and resources for all doctors, members and non-members alike but with additional benefits for members. 

The year 2014 was one of significant change in the governance and operations of the AMA. These changes laid the foundation for the future growth of the AMA to further develop its standing as an effective voice for its members and their patients.

Anne Trimmer
Secretary General

Download the Secretary General's report as a PDF.

AMA Board

The adoption of a new Constitution at the Annual General Meeting in May 2014 created a new governance structure for the company. A smaller governance Board responsible for corporate strategy, finances, and risk management was established in July 2014, following a transitional period. 

The Board established, as one of its earliest priorities, a governance framework. The framework included a Board Charter and a Board Protocol. An Audit and Risk Committee was established with new terms of reference and an external member, Mr Ed Killesteyn PSM. 

In late August 2014, the Board developed a strategic plan to guide the company over the coming three years. The strategic planning meeting was informed by a discourse on governance given by Henry Bosch AO. 

The strategic plan is built on four pillars – advocacy, membership, financial security and flexibility, and organisational capability. An operational plan was adopted by the Board to provide a structure within which, the agreed strategies can be implemented across the company. 

During 2014, the company subsidiary, Australasian Medical Publishing Company Pty Limited which publishes the Medical Journal of Australia and the Medical Directory of Australia, also adopted a new Constitution and appointed a new Board. The Board has two external members, Mr Richard Allely (Chair) and Mr Rowan Dean. The AMA appointees are AMA Immediate Past President, Dr Steve Hambleton and Dr Elizabeth Feeney (Chair of the AMA Board). 

In all, it has been a successful year in introducing major reforms which stand the company in good stead for the future.

Dr Elizabeth Feeney

Read the report by the AMA Board as a PDF.

Year in Review

The AMA had a busy year in 2014. We lobbied against the Queensland contracts, fought the introduction of a GP co-payment and Medicare rebate freeze, held a summit on alcohol misuse and highlighted the financial burdens on public hospitals. For a more detailed report of the AMA’s political and policy activities in 2014 please download the PDF.

Financial Report

For a full Financial Report of AMA Limited and it's controlled entities for the year ended 31 December 2014 please download the PDF.

Financial Report - notes

For notes accompanying the Financial Report please download the PDF.

Independent Audit Report

The Auditors - RSM Bird Cameron presented an unqualified Independent Audit Report. To view this, please download the PDF.

AMA Comittee Reports and Lists

The AMA’s Committees had an active year striving for better patient health, greater professional satisfaction and practice sustainability by developing new and updating old Position Statements, representing the AMA at Senate Inquiries and lobbying Government for health reforms. In 2014 the AMA had the following Committees:

  • AMA Council of Doctors in Training;
  • AMA Council of General Practice;
  • Council of Salaried Doctors;
  • Audit and Risk Committee;
  • Committee for Healthy Ageing;
  • Economics and Workforce Committee;
  • Ethics and Medico-Legal Committee;
  • Finance Committee;
  • Health Financing and Economics Committee;
  • Medical Practice Committee;
  • Medical Workforce Committee;
  • Public Health and Child and Youth Health Committee;
  • AMA Rural Medical Committee;
  • Taskforce on Indigenous Health, and
  • Therapeutics Committee.

For more information about each Committee's activities and members please download the PDF.