New AMA head will be 'fearless' in speaking out on poor health policy

The AMA’s new president has warned that GPs are at breaking point over the Medicare rebate freeze, forecasting gap payments of between $15 and $25 if it continues.

Dr Michael Gannon (pictured), a WA obstetrician and gynaecologist, was elected president at the AMA’s national conference in Canberra at the weekend, replacing Professor Brian Owler. 

Victorian GP Dr Tony Bartone, the outgoing president of AMA Victoria, has been elected deputy president.

Dr Gannon said the AMA would embark on “constructive interaction” with the Federal Government in a bid to resolve the impasse over the rebate freeze, promising to work with the three major parties in the lead-up to the 2 July Federal election. 

However, he pledged to always speak up over poor policy.

“I would love to build a more constructive relationship with the Turnbull Government if they're re-elected, but we will speak up fearlessly when they produce bad policy."

He told the media he wanted the government to recognise “the enormous value for money they get out of GPs”, saying the government currently regarded GPs as a cost and not “an investment in the health of our community”.

“When GPs get it right we avoid more expensive hospital admissions … That's an investment in health, it's not a cost.”

Once GPs decided to start charging for consultations that were currently bulk-billed, they were unlikely to charge a $3 or $4 gap, he warned, but more likely between $15 and $25 to help cover the added costs of collecting the fees.

"This is not an idle threat...it will be a minimum of $15 to make this work," he told ABC News radio.

"GPs are at breaking point.....in some areas especially areas of high employed patients, or pensioners or less well off, the GPs are at a point that they cannot contiune."

Listen to Dr Gannon's full interview with the ABC News radio on Monday morning.

His prediction is backed by a recent Australian Doctor poll that found more than 60% of the 510 GPs who responded said they expected to be charging non-concessional patients more than $15 out of pocket for a standard consult in the next 12 months.

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On the issue of AMA advocacy on politically sensitive issues such as asylum seekers, Dr Gannon said the AMA would always “fearlessly speak up on behalf of those without a voice”.

“Asylum seekers and refugees, ethically and under law, are entitled to the ethical protections of the Australian government, Australian law, the Australian people. That means that doctors must speak up.

"That is a core ethical principle of medical care, that you speak up when patients are not being treated well,” he said.

Related News: Police snooping on more refugee doctors, advocates claim

The AMA conference also saw five new members inducted  into its Roll of Fellows in recognition of their outstanding contribution to the AMA and the medical profession, including two GPs:

  • GP Dr Paul Mara from Gundagai in NSW,
  • Hervey Bay GP and former AMA Queensland president Dr Shaun Rudd

Dr Gannon is head of the Department of Obstetrics and Gynaecology at the St John of God Subiaco Hospital. He defeated former AMA vice president Dr Stephen Parnis.

More information

AMA conference press releases