1 Feb 2021
We hope you had time over the festive season to reset and reflect on the challenges we faced in 2020 and have returned to work with renewed energy. That is certainly the case for us and we intend to continue to work hard for you in 2021 as we advocate for the advancement of the Queensland medical profession and the health and wellbeing of our community.
Last year, our profession received important recognition during the outbreak of COVID-19 but we were, and continue to be, exposed to increased risks and dangers, as well as financial pressures for those in private practice. There is good reason for optimism in 2021 with the roll out of the COVID vaccine but we must remain vigilant to ensure the safety of our profession and community as well as financial viability for those in business. We strongly oppose the introduction of COVID testing in pharmacies and will continue to lobby against this as well as expanded scope of practice and the existing pharmacy trial of certain prescriptions (Cefalexin, Nitrofurantoin and Trimethoprim).
Also in the first half of 2021 we will be actively participating in discussion on the draft Voluntary Assisted Dying (VAD) legislation in Queensland as well as the new plan for permanent Medicare funding for telehealth. We will continue to collaborate, debate and challenge the state and federal governments as needed and ensure that doctors and frontline clinicians are embedded in the decision-making process and policy development, so we are best placed to deliver high quality healthcare for Queenslanders. We intend to make 2021 a year of positive change for the medical profession and community and are deeply grateful for the support and candour that you, our members bestow upon us, that help guide and shape our work.
The COVID vaccine roll out in Queensland is the biggest and most complex public health initiative we have ever undertaken in the history of our state requiring complex coordination of logistics, people and communication on a scale never seen before. It is akin to going to war while responding to simultaneous cyclones and bushfires across the entire state.
With the Pfizer vaccine now approved by the TGA, Queensland hospitals will predominantly deliver this first phase given the logistical issues of storing this vaccine at minus 70 degrees. Pending TGA approvals, it is likely that the AstraZeneca and Novavax will be more readily available to the wider community with GPs to play a critical role in this phase of the roll out. The AMA and the Royal Australian College of General Practitioners (RACGP) have worked collaboratively with the Federal Government over the past weeks to ensure the vaccine rollout is delivered with patient safety as the first priority.
GPs have the experience and systems in place to assess a patient’s medical history, easily administer timed, multi-dose vaccines and monitor patient health throughout the process. GPs will also be able to maintain records in the National Australian Immunisation Register and report on any adverse reactions through the Queensland Health Notifiable and Other Conditions Register, critical safety tools as we immunise the entire country. AMA and RACGP have also worked hard to ensure that considerations including rurality, afterhours access, the increased complexity of the vaccine and equipment supplies have also been taken into account.
Today is the last day for GPs to register their Expressions of Interest by midnight, if they wish to participate in the vaccine roll-out and we encourage all suitable practices to do so and help be a part of the biggest public health initiative we have ever seen.
TELEHEALTH PERMANENTLY FUNDED BY MEDICARE
As you know, a Medicare-funded trial of telehealth occurred during COVID and was widely embraced by the community and medical profession. Around four million Australians use telehealth each month, that equates to approximately a quarter of Medicare-subsidised services. Telehealth is very important for Queensland given the size of our state and access to healthcare for our rural and remote communities.
In late November 2020, we announced that AMA had successfully lobbied for the Federal Government to make Medicare-funded telehealth a permanent part of the Australian healthcare system. The initial trial was originally slated to end in March but has been extended for six months while the AMA develops a long-term Medicare-funded model of telehealth. It is anticipated that our proposal will encourage patients to enrol with a practice in order to build a relationship with a GP. This is the biggest reform to Medicare since its introduction and the new framework will be ready in time for this year’s federal budget.
VOLUNTARY ASSISTED DYING IN QLD
The Palaszczuk Government has extended the timeframes for the VAD legislation. We provided our submission, based on feedback from our member survey, at the end of November and will continue to be engaged in the process as the Queensland Law Reform Commission (QLRC) drafts the legislation.
The QLRC will present a draft of the legislation to parliament and stakeholders in early March with responses due back within a two-week window, followed by public hearings at the end of March. The QLRC will collate feedback and finalise the legislation in April with the bill scheduled to be a conscious vote in parliament in late May.
AMA Queensland will be a strong voice throughout this entire process to ensure the medical profession and vulnerable members of our community are protected. We will share information with our members as we continue to influence and shape this important legislation in Queensland.
We are delighted to continue our industrial relations partnership with the Australian Salaried Medical Officer’s Queensland (ASMOFQ). Salaried medical practitioners who are members of AMA Queensland also enjoy representation by ASMOFQ. With a strong track record of protecting and enhancing doctors’ industrial rights, ASMOFQ will continue to promote and protect the broad interests of salaried medical practitioners and advocate the provision and development of quality health services. MOCA6 negotiations will commence this year and together with ASMOFQ we intend to have a strong voice at the bargaining table.
Our strength at AMA Queensland is you, our members. Growing membership strengthens our voice and capacity to influence public policy and opinion. We encourage you to work with colleagues and help grow our membership. We embrace diverse voices and experiences and value feedback on our priorities and areas of need. Reach out to us directly or start a discussion on our member-only platform Queensland Doctors’ Community, so we can understand what is important to you.
We look forward to continuing to work for all AMA Queensland members in 2021 in what is already shaping up to be a busy and productive year for the medical profession and our community.
Prof Chris Perry, President, AMA Queensland
Dr Brett Dale, CEO, AMA Queensland
Published: 1 Feb 2021