AMA President Dr Tony Bartone is putting the Federal Government on notice, saying it has had long enough since being re-elected in May, to deliver a clear way forward for the nation’s health system.
The AMA Federal Council gathered in Canberra on November 15 and 16 to discuss policy and set priorities for the months ahead.
Dr Bartone got the meeting off to a strong start by comparing the high level of advocacy and policy work of the AMA to what he described as a lack of “overarching vision and strategy” from the Government.
“We are now six months post-election,” he said.
“Clearly, in that six months there has been an enormous amount of activity that’s gone up on the Hill and through the Department… in trying to coordinate a way forward.
“Frenetic activity. Poorly coordinated activity, you might say.
“There are three major taskforces that Health Minister Greg Hunt has convened – one on prevention, one on mental health, and one on primary care. They are all likely to report back in the next 12 months.
“Unfortunately, in all of that activity there is still not a clear sense of direction, and no clear sense of additional funding formula that is going to underpin all of these three missions plus more.”
Dr Bartone noted that he was the common denominator on all three taskforces when it came to advocacy representation.
But he added that being asked to sit on a committee or chair a taskforce was not enough of an indication that the Government is committed to delivering outcomes.
“I believe we are being potentially stakeholder managed,” Dr Bartone said.
“What do I mean by that? I mean we are being put into all the right places … but there is no clear sense that all of this activity will lead to meaningful strategic investment and the alignment of policy framework.
“That puts me in a rather difficult situation whereby I have indicated that I am not happy. I’m not happy with the lack of clarity that’s coming through and it’s obviously going to be a major point of conversation between the Minister and me over the next month.”
Dr Bartone said in order for the AMA to increase pressure on the Government, it needed to be clear about what is needed to improve the health system.
He said a lot of that work had been done with the AMA’s reports and advocacy on public hospitals, private health insurance, and aged care, to name just a few issues.
“We need to crystallise what I see is a lack of overarching vision and policy from Government,” he said.
“If I’m going to, on your behalf, call out the lack of direction by Government, it is really, I believe, imperative on us to really articulate what we believe is needed.”
Dr Bartone said the AMA would be ramping up its advocacy even further very early next year.
He said the election priorities the AMA outlined during the federal election campaign should already be in play.
“I would really like to have that vision in terms of the advocacy we have outlined … and see some action from the Government early next year,” he said.
“What we’ve got now is a lot of separate problems and some work being done towards solutions, rather than an overarching direction.
“We need an indication of meaningful investment in health.”
On aged care specifically, Dr Bartone said: “Something’s got to give and give soon, because it’s getting worse.”