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12 Jun 2018

BY AMA PRESIDENT DR TONY BARTONE

Addressing delegates ahead of being elected as your President at National Conference last month, I shared with them the inspiration for becoming a doctor and why I chose General Practice as my specialty.

My vocation came from personal experience – from my family, from my home.

When I was young, there was a period of time when my father was ill, very ill, and our family doctor would come to our home to visit my father and care for him.

My father was confined to bed for weeks, and the doctor would always visit our home and provide care, skill, compassion, and comfort … and confidence for a good outcome. Yes, my father recovered, and remained active for another 40 years.

But the experience stayed with me.

It inspired me. I wanted to help people. I wanted to be a doctor, a family doctor, a GP. My ambition was to help people who needed health care. And that is what I did.

Having reached my goal of becoming a GP, over time I wanted to extend my role to the broader population through better health policy, and to my fellow doctors and medical students to help them be the best doctors they could be. Just like my parents’ family doctor who helped my father and his family all those years ago.

That is what I have strived to do as a long-term member of the AMA, as Victorian President, as Federal Vice President, and now as President. The same inspirations and motivations drive me and shape my advocacy.

I want to make a difference. I will make a difference.

All Australians have a right to quality health care, and it is up to the AMA to provide the leadership and the ideas to defend our world class health system and make it even better.

There are many challenges facing the health system, our profession, and our patients. Some of these challenges are new, but many have been around for years, even decades, as successive governments have failed to implement long-term solutions, investment, or plans. Sadly, electoral fear will always outweigh great ideas.

Meanwhile, public hospital waiting lists continue to blow out. Private health insurance is becoming increasingly unaffordable for our patients.

There are enormous bottlenecks in the training pipeline. And there is a continuing struggle for some doctors around their own health and wellbeing.

We are still seeing variable access to care in country towns and rural areas. The lack of access for services to those with mental health issues or needing quality aged care services or care.

And General Practice has been systematically starved of funding - tearing at its heart; wearing it down; putting at risk its world class outcomes in primary care. Its very survival is at risk, as we are seeing in other parts of the world.

General Practice - the ‘cornerstone’ of primary care - must not just survive, it must grow and prosper. It must become rock solid. If it doesn’t, the other pillars of our health system will crumble.

That is why I will have General Practice and GPs at the heart of my advocacy as AMA President.

General Practice was the number one topic in my meetings with Health Minister Greg Hunt and Shadow Health Minister Catherine King within days of my election.

It has been at the core of just about every media interview I have conducted since National Conference. As has access to care for our patients, training our increasing graduate workforce, and, importantly, the health and wellbeing of our colleagues.

The memory of the family doctor who looked after my father will be with me every day of my Presidency.

The experiences of my patients who every day have to confront or navigate a complex under-resourced system will provide the context.

The many members who rely on our Association will be my motivation.

The many key mentors and leaders who have moulded me will augment my advocacy.

The value of quality General Practice at the local community level will drive AMA policy and advocacy over the next two years to achieve nationally consistent, positive, and well-funded outcomes for all our GPs and their patients.

My hope is that it will lead to international acclaim for our health system, built on the bedrock of high-quality, value-for-money General Practice.

 

 


Published: 12 Jun 2018