President and CEO update - February 2024

February may be the shortest month of the year but it is already proving to be a busy one. We have had meetings with the Premier, Health Minister and Opposition Leader, appeared before a parliamentary inquiry, and won a commitment from the Chief Health Officer to visit hospitals and discuss infection controls with staff on the ground. We’ve also released our Advocacy Priorities 2024-26 to guide our work over the next three years.

Health Minister’s visit and meeting with the Premier

February 6 was a big day. It started with an early morning meeting of the Primary Care Queensland Forum, the first for 2024, which Chief Health Officer John Gerrard attended and heard the concerns of AMA Queensland members, particularly around hospital-acquired COVID infections. 

Mid-morning, we hosted Health Minister Shannon Fentiman at the busy Windsor general practice of Dr Maria Boulton and AMA Queensland Councillor Dr Fiona Raciti. The Minister spoke to GPs, the practice manager, nurses and other staff about the parts of general practice that no-one sees – the anxious parents who bring their infant in for their first exposure to peanut butter, the special paediatrics room and development checklist, and the fever clinic with its separate entrance and infection control measures. 

Late afternoon, Dr Boulton attended the Queensland Health Leaders Forum, where she took the opportunity to have a chat with the Premier and the Treasurer about GP training incentives and workforce issues. 

That led to the Premier asking for a formal meeting, which was held on Friday 10 February in the Premier’s Office. We discussed our advocacy priorities with a focus on workforce and the Indigenous hospital network. 

Keep an eye on our website and the March Doctor Q for more information about these meetings.

Advocacy Priorities 2024-26

We’ve released our Advocacy Priorities 2024-26 report, setting out the urgent healthcare priorities for the next three years. 

Boosting the regional workforce, more support for general practice, and making hospitals more environmentally sustainable are among our top priorities and we need both levels of government to take action. 

Workforce is our No.1 priority. We cannot open new hospital beds without staff to operate them. We cannot solve our regional workforce crisis without recruiting, training and supporting the GPs and other specialists, nurses and allied healthcare workers our regions so desperately need. 

We must make Queensland the most attractive destination in the nation for health professionals. This requires urgent investment in broader incentives to attract and retain the medical workforce in our regions, including high-quality, affordable and safe staff accommodation. 

You can read our priorities in full here.

Read more

Hospital infection control

We raised members’ concerns about inadequate infection control and safety measures in our hospitals and the increasing numbers of hospital-acquired COVID infections with the CHO. 

His initial response on 18 January noted that COVID was no longer a communicable disease incident of national significance (CDINS) and responses to continuing waves of infection “must be balanced and proportionate”. 

However, after media reported on the rate of people being infected with COVID in hospital and dying, the CHO wrote back to let us know that he and the Chief Infection Control Nurse will systematically visit as many Queensland hospitals as possible to understand the challenges and work on individual solutions. 

We posted an ABC Online story on X (the social media platform formerly known as Twitter) and the response was overwhelming. At last count, it had received 473 likes, 203 retweets, and more than 19,000 impressions.

Read more

Meningococcal B vaccine

We are happy to report that the free rollout of meningococcal B vaccine to infants and older teenagers has begun a month ahead of schedule.

AMA Queensland has been calling for the meningococcal B vaccine to be added to the free National Immunisation Program since 2017. The Federal Government may not have listened yet, but the State Government has, promising last August to make the menB vaccine free to vulnerable cohorts in 2024.

Meningococcal B vaccine has been available for all Queensland School Immunisation Program providers since early January 2024.

We were recently advised that the Queensland Health Immunisation Program, in partnership with the vaccine manufacturer, has secured sufficient stock of Bexsero vaccine to commence the full rollout one month ahead of schedule.

We commend the Queensland government for taking action. It has long been an anomaly that vaccines for the A, C, W and Y strains are available free but the B strain vaccine is not.

Read more

Pharmacy Business Ownership Bill

On 12 February, CEO Dr Brett Dale and Policy Lead Erin O’Donnell represented AMA Queensland at a parliamentary inquiry into proposed new pharmacy ownership laws that would further restrict competition and unfairly affect patient access to pharmacies.

We are particularly concerned about the potential impact on access to culturally safe pharmacy services in First Nations communities. It suggests that commercially-focused pharmacy business owners know what is best for First Nations communities.

It entrenches completely outdated and anticompetitive regulations that only protect existing pharmacy owners and drive up the cost of medications. Worse still, it provides a vehicle in the form of a new statutory body by which existing owners can exert direct control over both new entrants to the market and their own competitors.

Our concerns were echoed by federal Productivity Commissioner Dr Steven King, who questioned whether a new and potentially expensive licensing regime was needed.

The committee is due to report on 8 March.

Read more

Patient Care Facilitators

We have seen more detail around the establishment of Patient Care Facilitators, an AMA Queensland initiative to reduce bed block in hospitals and reduce ambulance ramping.

In November 2023, Minister Fentiman announced five initiatives to improve patient flow, accompanied by an initial investment of $20 million, inclusive of many recommendations from the AMA Queensland Ramping Roundtable.

We are particularly pleased to see measures to ensure acute hospitals are fully operational and function seven days a week with extended hours included in these initiatives and commend the State Government for listening and responding to our members.

It has now been revealed that our Patient Care Facilitators initiative in general practice has been allocated approximately $2.4 million over two financial years for a pilot on care coordination for patients post discharge from hospital.

The program will fund nurses and other health care workers working in general practices, reducing emergency department presentations and re-admissions, improving bed block in hospitals and refining the overall functionality of our health system.

Read more

Australia Day Honours

Four AMA Queensland members have been recognised in this year’s Australia Day Honours for their outstanding service to medicine and the community.

Dr Robin Cooke was made a Member of the Order of Australia (AM), and Drs Matthew Young, Christine McConnell and David Stabler were awarded Medals of the Order of Australia (OAM).

It is an honour to work and advocate on behalf of such dedicated health professionals and we are incredibly proud of all our members. Queensland doctors work tirelessly to protect and ensure the health of all communities, and these four have certainly been a standout.

Read more

Bulk billing

We are continuing to pressure the Federal Government for real action on Medicare patient rebates to make primary care more affordable.

The tripling of the incentive paid to GPs to bulk bill children and concession card holders appears to show a slight uptick of 2.2 per cent in Queensland’s bulk billing rate, but this incentive only applies to children and Commonwealth concession card holders.

That means 16 million Australians are missing out.

The increased incentive has helped some practices, particularly in regional and remote communities, continue to bulk bill vulnerable patients, but many practices are still struggling.

Read more

Vitamin supplements

Dr Boulton spoke with ABC radio on the efficacy and potential dangers of vitamin intake, urging people to talk to their GP about any treatment they’re taking, including vitamins.

Many people seek vitamin supplements as an easy means to boost their health without needing medical advice or making lifestyle changes.

Unnecessary vitamin intake can be expensive in the long-run with little evidence of health benefits and the possibility of adverse health effects.

We encourage people to talk to their GP about vitamin supplements and other over-the-counter products before taking unknown products.

Read more


Queensland Health has acted on our advocacy efforts to address members’ concerns about QScript’s unnecessary red tape that wastes clinicians’ valuable time.

The proposed amendments include exempting look-up requirements for in-patients and residential aged care facility residents, and reducing the scope of the Monitored Medical Standard (MMS) to the existing, minimum requirements applicable to patients currently registered on the Queensland Opioid Treatment Program.

We welcome these amendments and anticipate they will significantly alleviate the regulatory burden on our healthcare workers.

Read more

Nicotine Pouches

Nicotine pouches are the latest trend being marketed as a safer alternative to smoking as they don’t contain tobacco, but as Vice President Dr Nick Yim told ABC radio, this dismisses their side effects and the long-term effects of nicotine.

Not only is there not enough research done into the other chemicals in these pouches to know what damage they can cause, but there is no evidence to support their use or safety as a smoking cessation aid.

We have seen how quickly vapes have taken hold of our community, and particularly young people, and must ensure any new product on the market is well researched and safe to prevent another generation from becoming addicted to nicotine.

Read more

Retirement of Police Commissioner

Katarina Carroll’s commitment and ability to differentiate between law and health issues in pursuing drug law reforms as Queensland police commissioner was outstanding, and we thank her for her leadership as she steps down after five years in the role.

In February 2023 the Queensland Government introduced legislation to expand the Police Drug Diversion Program for cannabis to include other drugs, meaning people found with small amounts of drugs for personal use would be given a warning or health intervention.

We had been calling for this reform since 2021 and stood proudly alongside Commissioner Carroll to welcome these changes when they were announced at a press conference.

Read more

RSV vaccine approved for use in Australia

The Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA) recently approved Australia's first vaccine for respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) for anyone over 60 or those with a chronic illness.

Dr Boulton told ABC radio that it is important all eligible patients see their GP for a prescription once it becomes available, particularly if they are going to be around babies.

Read more

Medical Careers Expo

We look forward to seeing members at the Medical Careers Expo on 9 March.

This event is for all Queensland doctors at every stage of their career.

It is free for AMA Queensland members and $99 for non-members.

Read more

Registrations are now open for the AMA Queensland AGM and Dinner for the Profession, to be held at Voco Hotel Brisbane on 24 May 2024.

This year's dinner has a Cannes Film Festival-theme as we recognise our members’ achievements, celebrate 130 years of medical advocacy and inaugurate our new AMA Queensland President.

Please join us on the night.

Register now

Related topics