Health takes centre stage

13 Jul 2016

I love elections, and not because I love politics. I love them in the same way I love cricket. Somehow amongst the snail-paced action, we manage to find the most ridiculous statistics, with Antony Green working diligently at the ABC as our very own Richie Benaud. Unlike cricket however, this isn’t a game. This is government. The next three years of it to be precise. And I’m inclined to think that the reason we focused so much on Antony and less on Bill and Malcolm was because of a lack of conviction from both parties when it came to health care.

The AMA was very clear on where health needed to go from here. We called on those seeking to form government to reverse the indexation freeze on the MBS. We called on them to form a long-term plan for the funding of Australia’s public hospitals. We called on them for proper investment in preventative health care, a proper accelerated approach to medical workforce management and a sensible plan for key areas of health care such as rural environments and Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander health services.

What was announced initially was far from inspiring. The Coalition announced the Health Care Homes model, in an effort to focus on simplifying chronic health care. However, the plan was unfunded and lacked detail. This left a clear health policy vacuum, and what followed were a mish-mash of announcements about specific policy initiatives that just didn’t quite cut the mustard. Then we had the Medi-scare campaign, which led to the baby being thrown out of the bathwater and destroyed any chance of a sensible public debate on Medicare reform. Not exactly Don Bradman level action.

Despite the murky predictions around marginal seats and the painstaking wait for our new government, one thing because crystal clear as the election dragged on. The public care about health. A tremendous amount, it would seem. Health was routinely identified as the number one factor that voters considered when deciding on who to vote for. This lack of clear policy direction from both major parties goes a long way to explain the increasing swing towards parties other than the Coalition and the ALP. When no party addresses your concerns around health, who do you turn to?

This election has vindicated the AMA and our position on health policy. Health can no longer languish in the back benches of parliament as a problem too big and too expensive to fix. The public have been clear in their message to government: health care matters to Australians.

As for the AMA, the election doesn’t change much going forward. It’s business as usual as the gears of government start to turn once more. There’s a lot to keep doctors in training busy with in the meantime, such as our upcoming Safe Hours Audit, our work on supporting Indigenous medical trainees, our continued lobbying for a National Training Survey and our ongoing work with organisations such as the National Medical Training Advisory Network to ensure a sustainable medical workforce. July will see the second face-to-face meeting of the Council of Doctors in Training to continue this work and more, so please be involved with your State committees to keep in the loop.

As always, I would love to hear about any specific concerns you might have that IR any issues that you want more information on. And if you want to talk to me about the Ashes as well, I won’t mind at all.

Until next time,

Z

Dr John Zorbas
Chair, AMA Council of Doctors in Training