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The importance of smart policy

All governments today get presented with a wide range of opinions from a wide range of groups for consideration in policy development and implementation. The good opinions – the smart ones – are given serious consideration.

05 Jun 2011

By AMA President Dr Andrew Pesce

All governments today get presented with a wide range of opinions from a wide range of groups for consideration in policy development and implementation.

The good opinions – the smart ones – are given serious consideration.

It is vital – always – for the AMA to be in a position where its views are heard and seriously considered by the Government of the day.

And a constant strong media presence is necessary to carry and support our advocacy.

More importantly, our media presence must at all times be positive and informed if we are to be seen as a serious contributor to the health reform debate.

If we oppose something, we must explain why, and offer a better alternative.  This is how we build the support of the profession and the community.  This is part of the way that we influence the Government.

But we must also be clear in our own minds about the fundamental role that the AMA must play in health reform.

Everyone agrees that our health system is creaking at the seams and requires change.  But that is where agreement ends.

Today, there are just as many opinions regarding which direction reform should take as there are commentators.  This is true even within the AMA family and the medical profession in general.

As your President, I heard many differing views on specific problems across our entire health system.  Our policies guide our public position.

But in a changing world with emerging challenges, we must continually re-evaluate our policies in the light of what is best for our patients and what is best for our profession.

There are some who believe that the AMA’s sole role is to resist change.  But change itself is inevitable and, in their hearts, all doctors understand this.

I believe that the AMA’s most important obligation is to represent the medical profession so that changes and reforms improve access to care for our patients.

At the same time, these changes and reforms must not be allowed to diminish or disadvantage doctors who provide the majority of care to the community.

For doctors who pursue innovative models of care and new practice models to allow them to best care for their patients, the AMA must ensure that changes in funding arrangements support them as well as other models.

For those doctors who continue to work as hard as they always have to provide excellent care for their patients, the AMA must act to prevent health system changes from discriminating against them.

Too often we see changes that pursue a narrow and sometimes ideological agenda.

These changes lock doctors out of new arrangements or introduce new funding models that leave doctors with inadequate support.

It is our job to change these changes.

The AMA can get changes by putting forward credible alternative proposals to government policies that we believe are not in the interests of patient care.

Putting our policies out there and discussing them in the media deliver results.

The results are not always immediate but they do come with persistence and a strong intellectual argument.

And that is what the AMA must continue doing with ongoing and upcoming challenges … and there will be many: Medicare Locals and the changes to mental health care for starters.

It has been an honour and a privilege to be your President.  The AMA remains in very safe hands with Dr Steve Hambleton as your new President.


Published: 05 Jun 2011