New Government. New Opportunities.

The Federal Election is now only 24 hours away and a close result is anticipated. The neglect by all parties of healthcare overall, but women’s health particularly, throughout the election campaign is utterly disappointing. NASOG has been regularly forwarding information about the maternity crisis in Australia and our proposed solutions to candidates from all sides of politics. The challenges of accessing women’s and family healthcare in regional areas has been a particular focus, highlighting the inequality in women’s health funding generally. Continued mention has been made of the gender inequity in private health insurance rebates and we hope that this is gaining momentum.

NASOG Councillors have also been individually contacting their local candidates to raise awareness of the challenges and I hope that all members have taken the opportunity to do the same.

Although there have been no big policy announcements to impact voter behaviour, our efforts do seem to be paying off, at least with Labor candidates, with recognition in all of their return communications of the challenges facing womens health and a commitment to meet with NASOG following the Election, should they win power. At some local levels, particularly in Queensland, key Liberal candidates have responded positively and are eager to continue working with us to address these health inequities,

We have recently started working more closely with the Australian Birth Trauma Association with the goal of increasing public recognition of adverse maternal outcomes, which we are linking to inadequate investment in maternity care. The economic and social impacts of the ongoing gynaecological and allied health support needed by mothers who have endured Birth Trauma have long gone unacknowledged but form a crucial part of the whole story around the survival of private obstetrics.

As members are all aware, the new MBS Item numbers for Gynaecology came into use on 30 March this year. I would like to thank all those who have taken the time to forward through their problems with implementing the new numbers. Please continue to send comments through to NASOG as we have committed to send them on to the Department until we receive a reasonable response and action to correct the issues raised.

We have also been in discussion with other gynaecological interest groups about the item number changes with the intention that a united front will have more impact in dealing with the Department of Health once the new Government is in place.

Members will remember the proposal from Honeysuckle Health and nib last year to establish what is essentially a managed care operation in Australia. This was allowed to go ahead by the ACCC under strict conditions. The group has now appealed for those conditions to be significantly loosened. NASOG has been invited to provide comment on the new proposal in a very tight timeframe. As there isn’t sufficient time for us to seek legal advice, we are supporting the responses put forward by the Federal AMA.

Representing private O&G practice is a priority for NASOG. In addition to taking our voice to our national decision makers, we are asking College for clearer and more specific recognition of private practice. This includes an identified private practice representative on the Board and key Committees. This will ensure equity in the representation of the various areas of our specialty and help in decision making for the future. If you have an opportunity to raise the profile of private practice within your College activities, we encourage you to actively do so.

Active representation of our practice by every individual is becoming more and more important. Around the world and in our region in particular, membership organisations representing the interests of specific groups are facing a watershed moment.

Recent news that the New Zealand Medical Association has been put into receivership should strike fear into the heart of doctors across our nation. It is disappointing that our industry associations appear to be taken for granted, there seems to be a general perception that you don’t need to be a member as you will benefit from their work regardless of your membership status.

Unfortunately, dwindling membership bases mean that financial resources also diminish and the funds needed to fight for specialty related rights and remuneration are no longer there. With the ultimate result that those who were previously represented lose their voice and it won’t take long before they have also lost their income and choices in how and where they practice.

It is imperative that NASOG continues to have sufficient members to do our incredibly vital work as no other organisation represents the specific interests of specialist obstetricians and gynaecologists in Australia.

Our membership notices will be going out shortly. Annual subscription rates have been held at the same level as 2019 to keep them affordable for all.

If you are reviewing your membership and feel that NASOG isn’t doing quite what you signed up for, approach your state NASOG Councillor and tell them. Or even stand for Council yourself and bring change from within. Encourage your colleagues to get involved and communicate with us on the practice issues that will make the most difference to you. Be active, think and talk about the future of your practice and how important it is in the Australian health landscape.

We appreciate that priorities change with generations, as does the way that we work and interact. However, it is essential that our association stays relevant for members so that we can continue to be the voice of the profession at the political table and ensure that the private sector survives and thrives so that the public sector can also improve the services it delivers to Australian women.

I’m looking forward to negotiating with the incoming Federal Government and starting to see some real change in the affordability and access to women’s health in our county. I hope you will all join me.

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