Appointments help unite health messaging

 

At the time of writing, Victoria had just moved back to level 3 restrictions, and an increase in cases of COVID-19 had been detected in New South Wales as well. 

Our members in these areas have been justifiably anxious, angry and exhausted.

It is clear that the battle is still ahead of us, and there is no short-term relief from this pandemic in Australia any time soon. It has been a strong reminder of how vulnerable we are as a nation to this virus, and that we need to continue to support each other across state borders.

The escalation of the pandemic in Australia has shone a spotlight on our political process, the politicians and chief medical officers involved, and the interactions between the state and federal governments.

Certainly it has been apparent that different jurisdictions have gone about things differently, and this has caused confusion regarding issues such as border closures, isolation requirements and testing advice.

Many times I have heard the phrase, ‘surely this would be easier if we had just the one health system and everything could be consistent and clear.’ I tend to agree.

Thankfully, one of the government’s recent announcements has been the appointment of a federal Chief Allied Health Officer. The APA has advocated strongly for this, but we have always been clear about some non-negotiables. We wanted a position at the same level as the other chief officers (medical and nursing), and with the appropriate scope and budget to actively influence federal health policy development.

With the announcement of the appointment of Dr Anne-marie Boxall, a physiotherapist by training, to the role of Australia’s Chief Allied Health Officer, it appears these non-negotiables have been met.

Having a centralised, federal level of coordination and advice on health policy will certainly help us capture information, and quickly identify discrepancies across state borders. This will be invaluable as the pandemic progresses.

We are also in strong support of the appointment of Dr Ruth Stewart as the new Rural Health Commissioner. Dr Stewart takes over from the inaugural commissioner Professor Paul Worley.

This announcement follows the federal government’s decision to extend and expand the Office of the National Rural Health Commissioner. This role has placed a strong emphasis on the importance of allied health in rural settings. We continue to work closely with the commissioner’s office to make sure the value of our profession in rural areas is understood—particularly the opportunities to improve outcomes for rural patients.

In recent weeks, I publicly stated our profession’s strong opposition to views expressed by the AMA Queensland (AMAQ). The AMAQ’s suggestion that orthopaedic physiotherapy consultations at hospital outpatient clinics provide inferior patient care was inaccurate and insulting. Importantly, the comments completely missed the significant benefits to patients delivered by physiotherapists in these roles, who work closely alongside their medical, surgical, nursing and allied health colleagues.

We support Queensland Health and indeed all state health departments that use health system resources wisely to ensure the safest and best outcomes for consumers with minimal wait times.

It is also worth noting that these services have been thoroughly evaluated over a long period, and there is no question mark over their safety or efficacy.

As we head into the second part of 2020, I continue to extend my best wishes and prayers to you, your families, your colleagues and your communities.

Please stay safe and continue to look after and care for each other. And as always, I am keen to hear from any of our members about the topics mentioned above, our response to the pandemic, or broader professional issues.

 

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