GP Network News, Issue 12 Number 23

15 Jun 2012

AMA urges action to address shortage of intern positions

The AMA has written to Health Minister Tanya Plibersek urging strong leadership from the Federal Government in discussions with the States and Territories to address the looming shortage of intern positions.

The AMA understands that the first of a series of meetings on this issue involving senior Commonwealth and State Health Department officials takes place today.

AMA President, Dr Steve Hambleton, said yesterday that recently published information shows there will be a shortage of around 300 intern posts in NSW and Victoria alone next year.

“It is a key issue for all governments to ensure that there are sufficient internships for all medical graduates,” Dr Hambleton said.

Dr Hambleton said that the Commonwealth has commendably lifted the number of medical graduates since 2004 to meet community need and that now it is up to the Commonwealth to work with the States and Territories to provide these graduates with access to quality intern training places.

“Without these extra training places, thousands of junior doctors will not be able to achieve specialist qualification, and the community will not realise the full benefit of its investment in increased medical school places.

Click here to view the full press release.

COAG report confirms no improvement

Dr Hambleton, said yesterday that the COAG Reform Council’s latest report on the National Healthcare Agreement confirms the findings of the AMA’s annual Public Hospital Report Cards – there are not enough hospital beds and there are too many patients languishing on waiting lists.

Dr Hambleton said that, on the basic measures, there has been no real change in the capacity of our hospitals to meet demand.

Dr Hambleton noted while there were 872 more public hospital beds than in the previous year that these were merely keeping pace with population growth and did nothing to increase hospital capacity.

“This has a direct impact on elective surgery performance, which is not improving.  This is not acceptable to the patients waiting long periods for treatment.”

Dr Hambleton said the situation is even worse when you consider the hidden waiting lists.

“There are people who have been referred by their GP and waiting to see a public hospital specialist to be assessed for surgery who are not counted in the waiting list data.  They only get counted after they see the specialist and get booked in for surgery.

“The AMA recommends that, as well as measuring the hidden waiting lists, the COAG Reform Council should adopt the AMA’s Bedwatch proposal to conduct a national stocktake of the actual numbers of beds needed in each hospital to provide safe care.

While the Reform Council Report highlighted affordability as a reason for people delaying or not going to a GP, Dr Hambleton said this is not consistent with Medicare data that show 80 per cent of GP services are provided with no out-of-pocket costs for patients.

“Our hardworking GPs are bearing the financial burden of providing safe, high quality, affordable primary care to the Australian community,” Dr Hambleton said.

Click here to view the full press release

AMA Council of General Practice

The AMA Council of General Practice will be meeting next weekend to discuss future policy directions and strategies in support of general practice. Among the topics to be discussed are the 2012-13 Budget outcomes, possible post Budget actions, and priority health issues leading up to the next Federal Election.

GP Referred MRIs Eagerly Anticipated

In line with last year’s Budget commitment, and as a result of much advocacy by the AMA, from 1 November 2012 GPs will be able to request MRIs for all patients under 16 years of age for clinically appropriate indications. This step is part of a roll out that will see GPs able to request MRIs for all patients for clinically appropriate conditions from 1 November 2013.

The AMA, represented by Dr Brian Morton, Chair, AMA Council of General Practice has been contributing to the MRI Working Group since August 2011, to determine a list of clinical indicators for GP referral and descriptors for the new items. The AMA has been pushing for items that are relevant for GPs and represent best practice.

The AMA has advocated for guidelines to support GPs and work is underway to develop clinical guidelines and educational materials for GPs to help ensure that patients receive the most appropriate imaging.

AMA resources for medical fees


The AMA encourages medical practitioners to determine their own fees based on their own practice costs. To guide medical practitioners in determining their fees and to assist those considering moving from bulk billing to patient billing, the AMA provides members with tools and resources, which are available at

There is a checklist for those medical practitioners who have decided to move from bulk billing to patient billing and a template letter to explain to their patients why their fee is different to the Medicare rebate.

The AMA Gaps Poster illustrates why patients might have to pay a gap. The poster shows the effect of the difference between the indexation of Medicare Schedule fees and the Consumer Price Index and average weekly earnings. To download a A4 size poster that you may print please click here, or you can order a colour A3 size poster by emailing or calling on (02) 6270 5400.

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In this issue

AMA urges action to address shortage of intern positions

COAG report confirms no improvement

AMA Council of General Practice

GP Referred MRIs Eagerly Anticipated

AMA resources for medical fees

Email the AMA

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AMA is the peak medical organisation in Australia representing the profession’s interests to Government and the wider community. Your Federal AMA General Practice Policy team can be contacted via email or by phone (02) 6270 5400. You can unsubscribe from GPNN by emailing