Letters to the Editor
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"SMA Attends AMA National Conference"
Major health issues
The National Conference dealt with major health care related issues on the Australian scene and consensus building was used by the AMA to make policy decisions. The four topics under discussion this year were: (1) General Practice: Medical Workforce, (2) Drugs in Sport, (3) Crisis in Aged Care: Will Co-ordinated Care Help? and (4) Medical Insurance And Gaps.
General Practice issues
The General Practice policy discussion group dealt with several policies they saw as important. The first was the request that the Federal Council of the AMA lobbies for the setting up and provision of standardised data sets within the framework of the National Health information system; this will collect data required for analysis of the GP workforce to enable comparison with other elements in the health system.
A request was also made to lobby universities and colleges to ensure that they deliver general practice undergraduate and postgraduate education and CME, which develop competencies to enable GPs of all ages and experience to undertake the full range of primary care medical work (including procedural and emergency) sufficient to enable them to adapt their practice for a variety of locations and tasks throughout their career.
A request was made to the General Practice Partnership Advisory Council to undertake research into models of sustainable and financially viable general practice across all geographical areas, taking into account the needs of GPs and the communities in which they work, the changing nature of general practice and the urgent need for more rural health locums.
Finally, the issue of removing the barriers to the involvement of women in the AMA so that the AMA could better represent the needs of female medical practitioners in all areas of practice, particularly rural practice, was also discussed and proposals made. Our President was invited to contribute a paper on the medical workforce and he spoke on the interventions necessary to enable doctors to practice in the rural setting as well as the need to raise the profile of the general practitioner.
Drugs in sports
The Drugs in Sports policy group dealt with the ethical issues related to the use of drugs in sports, which covered the need to take care, when prescribing for athletes, to avoid medications which are banned for that particular sport unless there is no suitable alternative. The policy group also condemned the non-medicinal use of prescription drugs by athletes and recognises that doping in sports is part of the problem of drug abuse and misuse in society.
Education on the dangers and hazards of substance abuse, and non-medicinal use of substances which enhance performance in sports or body image, was also advocated for young athletes and the public.
Co-ordinated care for the elderly
Co-ordinated care for the elderly was advocated by the policy group on crisis in aged care and noted that the attending general practitioner plays the central role in the co-ordination of health care. Co-ordinated care must be used to optimise, not to ration, the delivery of effective and appropriate health services.
A care plan should be used as a tool to assist in the management of the clinical care of the patient. Medical practitioners are encouraged to become involved in the development and implementation of further co-ordinated care initiatives.
A national strategy on funding for care co-ordination was advocated to develop, promote and encourage the use of suitable IT/IM systems, provide appropriate education and support for medical practitioners and other health professionals, and provide incentives to implement and maintain care plans.
Medical Insurance and Gaps
There presently exists a gap between the fees recommended by the AMA and those set by the Government. The discussion centred on whether this gap should be part of the insurance cover. This gap is synonymous with our deductible co-payment in Singapore.
The policy group supported the AMA Federal Councils decision to call on the Australian Federal Government to introduce a legislative option for insurance benefits up to at least the AMA recommended fees.
Dr Wong Chiang Yin and Dr Tan Sze Wee participated in and contributed to the discussion in this policy group.
The Annual Dinner
The Annual Dinner was an enjoyable social event. Representatives from the British Medical Association and the New Zealand Medical Association also attended. We were each invited to say a few words and there was an exchange of mementos.
The Singapore Medical Association would like to put on record its appreciation for the hospitality accorded to its representatives to its National Conference and the Annual Dinner.
A/PROF GOH LEE GAN AND DR WONG CHIANG YIN