GP Network News, Issue 13 Number 40

10 Oct 2013

Dr Steve Hambleton, AMA President

Doctors need to look after their own health too

A report released this week by the mental health organisation, beyondblue, has found that many Australian doctors are more likely to experience psychological distress than the general community, particularly medical students and young or female doctors. The report draws attention to the need to better support doctors and address mental health and over-work issues.

As all doctors know, it is important for them to stay healthy so that they can deliver the best care to their patients and experience rewarding and satisfying careers. AMA President, Dr Steve Hambleton, last week addressed the Health Professionals’ Health Conference in Brisbane on the importance of supporting and promoting the health and wellbeing of health professionals.

"As health professionals, we have a responsibility to ensure that programs exist to assist our colleagues to access quality health care when they need it." Dr Hambleton said.

The AMA has for some time had strong links to existing doctors’ health services. The State AMAs provide financial and in-kind support for doctors’ health advisory services in a number of States and Territories. The AMA has also been a strong advocate for Medical Board funding of more formal programs, while recognising the need for funding arrangements to be independent and at arm’s length to ensure doctors trust these services and seek help.

A range of useful resources and information for members on doctors’ health and wellbeing is available on the AMA website.

Dr Hambleton’s address to the Health Professionals’ Health Conference.

beyondblue media release.

AMA President speaks to 4BC Brisbane about doctors’ health

Dr Steve Hambleton discusses doctors having depression, contemplating suicide, and being exhausted. Dr Hambleton says it is a stressful job with long working hours and young people especially are under a lot of pressure.

Listen to 4BC Brisbane interview with Dr Hambleton.

AMA President speaks out about alternative medicine

Dr Hambleton on the Today Show discusses being tough on parents who seek alternative medicine. Dr Hambleton says parents are refusing medical treatment despite the evidence. 

View the Today Show interview

Click here to read the transcript of Dr Hambleton’s interview with ABC Radio Brisbane on chiropractors treating children.

Bulk billing hides true cost of care

Dr Brian Morton, Chair of the AMA Council of General Practice, in his regular article in Australian Medicine, discusses the effects of bulk billing on the long-term viability of general practice in Australia. He examines how the inadequate rebate for a standard consultation encourages a high throughput of patients in order to pay salaries and running costs of a practice, but gives less time to manage patients with complex issues and to deliver high-quality preventative care.

Read Dr Morton’s article.

AMA Secretary General on transparency and getting the cost-benefit balance right

AMA’s new Secretary General, Anne Trimmer, in this week’s edition of Australian Medicine, examines the push for greater disclosure of pharmaceutical company payments to doctors and highlights the balance that needs to be struck in providing useful information without huge and unjustified administrative overheads. View article.

Other news in the latest edition of Australian Medicine includes:

  • a discussion of the health agencies, programs and functions that are likely to be cut or merged by the new government;
  • a description of Obamacare and how it works;
  • the appropriate scope of chiropractic treatment and pharmacy practice;
  • the benefits and pitfalls of taking mobile pictures of patients; and much more.

Sexual harassment of female GPs

The latest issue of Medical Journal of Australia (MJA), published on 7 October 2013, contains a report by Peter Bratuskins and colleagues on the nature and extent of female general practitioner’s experience of sexual harassment by patients. The research, conducted in 2010, found that 54.5 per cent of female doctors surveyed had been sexually harassed by their patients, yet very few (6.7%) had ever received training relating to sexual harassment by patients. The authors bring attention to the need for greater awareness of the issue, and the need to develop specific training and support mechanisms, including workplace safety training and practice-based support, to help prevent sexual harassment by patients and assist those clinicians who experience it.

Doctors deal with patients from many different backgrounds, with a wide range of conditions, and it is not only sexual harassment that can occur. Research indicates that more than half of GPs are exposed to work related violence in any 12-month period. To help with managing the risks of violence in medical practice and to make medical practices safer for GPs, their staff and patients, the AMA has information available for members in an anti-violence kit. The kit is designed to provide practical advice and guidance focusing on the three step approach of risk identification, risk assessment and risk control.

Quality, cost and politics in general practice

The preface to this week’s issue of MJA introduces a number of articles that will be of interest to GPs, including: novel insights into the pathology of upper gut symptoms; treatment failure in atopic dermatitis as a result of parental health belief; a look at out of pocket spending on health care; and the importance of strong primary care and the role of family doctors, as highlighted in the inauguration speech by the World Organization of Family Doctors (WONCA) President, Australian Michael Kidd.

Other interesting topics include trends in GP visits for Australian children; the risk of MERS-CoV infection for Australian Hajj pilgrims to Mecca; the evidence, or lack thereof, for salicylate elimination diets; GP use of different cardiovascular risk assessment strategies; and much more.

Read MJA.

Changes for DVA claiming

From 10 December 2013 the Department of Veterans’ Affairs (DVA) will be streamlining its payment processes for all health providers providing treatment to DVA clients under the Safety Rehabilitation and Compensation Act 1988 (SRCA) arrangements. The small number of clients who either pay for treatment themselves and seek a reimbursement, or who have their accounts billed directly to DVA (known as SRCA clients) will be getting a DVA White Card for all their accepted SRCA conditions. The requirement to seek prior approvals before invoicing will no longer be necessary.

This process will make claiming payments from DVA simpler and quicker. The current DVA fee schedules and claims process will now apply to these clients. There are a very small number of severely injured clients who will remain on the existing SRCA arrangements for the foreseeable future.

If you have any questions about this change you should contact the White Card Project Team on 02 6225 4632 or refer to

MERS coronavirus situation update - 3 October 2013

As of 20 September 2013, the WHO had received reports of 130 laboratory-confirmed cases of MERS-CoV, including 58 deaths. The confirmed case count has gone down by two due to the reclassification of two cases in Italy to probable.

The World Health Organisation has issued new laboratory testing recommendations for MERS-CoV, which continue to emphasise the collection of lower respiratory tract samples where possible, and provides a testing algorithm.

Posters and electronic signage have been positioned at all international airports, to advise travellers returning from the Middle East of the signs and symptoms of MERS-CoV and to see a doctor or go to hospital if they have, or develop, these signs or symptoms. The posters and electronic signage will be displayed from 8 October to 10 November 2013.

Situation updates are provided by the Department of Health every fortnight – latest update. The next advice on MERS-CoV will be updated and reissued during the week of 14-18 October, just prior to the return of Pilgrims from the Hajj.

We welcome your comments and suggestions as well. Please tell us what you think.

In this issue:

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