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Here’s an update on a few of the issues AMA Victoria is working on for members, including:

  • Media wrap (planned surgery and health service budgets)
  • Community Pharmacy Trial concerns- member feedback wanted.
     

Media wrap

AMA Victoria has been prominently featured in recent media coverage, offering insights into pressing issues such as planned surgery and health service budgets. The following provides an indicative snapshot of our recent contributions.

Planned surgery

Victorian government cuts its elective surgery target by 40,000 procedures a year due to staff shortages - ABC News

Australian Medical Association (AMA) Victoria president Jill Tomlinson said the workforce shortages had been known for a long time, and the targets had been "aspirational but not achievable".

"This is the fifth year in a row that the Victorian government's targets on elective surgery have not been met and Victorians have a right to answers as to why we're not achieving those targets," she said.

"Every person who is not getting their surgery is a person who is waiting with pain, with disability, often unable to work — and we've got to keep that in mind when thinking about these targets."

Dr Tomlinson said it was not just the state government's targets on elective surgery that were not being met.

"We're failing to meet the targets on emergency department admission times, we've also failed to meet the targets on mental health — and so we really need to think realistically what can be achieved and what problems are we going to see in the years going ahead."


Elective surgery: Victoria fell short of its lofty promise - so it cut the target (theage.com.au)

Dr Jill Tomlinson, Victorian president of the Australian Medical Association and a plastic reconstructive surgeon, said the targets were always ambitious.

“Workforce will remain a huge potential barrier to achieving the targets and, coming into winter, we also commonly see surgeries being put off because of bed capacity,” she said.

“The work done in surgical reform and recovery has improved efficiencies and delivered good increases in throughput, but we are yet to meet the targets.

“We need to continue to work on workforce and streamlining systems and the infrastructure required to deliver those surgical services.”


Ambitious surgery goal ‘unlikely’ as Victoria considers reform (theage.com.au)

(From August 2023)

“I anticipate that, unfortunately, we’ll fall short of the target, just as we did last year,” said Dr Jill Tomlinson, Victorian president of the medical association and a plastic reconstructive surgeon.

“It may be that we find that the targets that were announced are not achievable.”

“I do wonder if we will find in time that this surgical target is a bit like some of the election commitment targets.”

“We also need to avoid healthcare worker burnout, which is at a pretty high level,” Tomlinson said.

There were still significant delays in getting people on to a waiting list, to meet a surgeon and to have an operation done, she said.

“That has significant impacts on patients because it means that they have pain and disability … [that they are] having to put up with for much longer periods of time.”

Tomlinson said Victoria was still below some of its targets for emergency department admissions and that the limited workforce posed questions about where to devote resources.

Tomlinson was part of the consultation process last year and said the government could consider alternative pathways to surgery and “role substitution”, where other specialist health professionals such as physiotherapists or occupational therapists pick up clinical responsibilities when safe to do so.

“We also need to ensure that the reforms are considering regional and rural areas because the hubs that have been built are established overwhelmingly in metropolitan areas,” Tomlinson said.

“Improving hospital communication with general practice practitioners is also an important aspect because in-hospital surgical treatment isn’t something that starts and stops at the front door.

“If GPs are more effectively communicated with, then they can both ensure that patients are ready for care at the time that the hospital is ready to deliver the surgical service, plus they can also be better involved in the post-operative care.”

Health services budgets

Victoria budget 2024: Hospitals won’t get bailouts if they go over budget (theage.com.au)

The Australian Medical Association’s Victorian president, Dr Jill Tomlinson, said she had heard hospitals “will be told to very strictly [adhere] to a budget and that health services will not receive additional top-up funding”.

Tomlinson said the AMA was seeking advice from the health minister about how this funding had been costed so hospitals were able to meet future demand while maintaining high-quality patient care and worker entitlements.

“AMA Victoria would certainly have concerns if tightening of fiscal constraints meant that any hospital was unable to be adequately staffed or to replace outdated equipment,” she said.


Victorian regional hospitals face closure, amalgamation under health budget crisis | Herald Sun

Dr Jill Tomlinson, president of the Australian Medical Association in Victoria, said her organisation would seek more clarity after the letters had been sent.

“We will be discussing this letter with the Health Minister and her staff in the coming weeks and months to seek clarification as to how exactly this funding has been costed to ensure delivery of projected future activity, high-quality patient care, safe staffing levels and the delivery of award entitlement for the entire healthcare workforce,” she said.


Community Pharmacy Trial concerns- member feedback wanted

As part of our ongoing commitment to monitoring and advocating for the best interests of our members and their patients, we are eager to hear any specific concerns or observations members may have regarding the Community Pharmacy Trial. This includes issues related to scope creep and potential methods of increasing apparent demand, as well as concerns about operating outside the PBS safety net without informed consent for community pharmacy dispensing under the Trial.

Recently, there have been reports regarding potential issues related to the trial, including instances where patients have experienced discrepancies in medication repeats and received unsolicited health check-in messages after pharmacy visits. These incidents raise questions about the trial's implementation and its impact on patient care.

We are particularly interested in hearing from members who, along with their family members or patients, may have encountered similar situations or have any other feedback regarding the Trial. Your insights will assist us in better understanding the challenges and concerns faced by medical practitioners and their patients.

If you have any information or experiences to share, please don't hesitate to reach out to us. Your input is invaluable in guiding our advocacy efforts and ensuring the highest standards of care in our healthcare system. Members are encouraged to contact Senior Policy Adviser, Lewis Horton, at [email protected] to relay their experiences.