A Little Less Conversation. A Little More Action.

In the month since our last newsletter, I have appeared in over 15 media pieces, attended 1 maternity workforce Roundtable and met with State and Federal politicians. Political meetings have included the Federal Opposition Leader, the Federal Assistant Health Minister and the new Queensland Health Minister

Amid renewed calls for involvement of the highest levels of government officials to spring into action to save a system collapsing under the strain, the conversation is always the same; how do we solve the crisis in maternity care and bring proper, safe resources back to women in regional Australia? While much of this has continued to focus on my home state of Queensland, the problem is occurring nationally, and a workable solution needs to be found soon.

For the past 4 years as NASOG President, I have been consistent in my cry for changes at the Federal level to the MBS and Private Health Insurance to enable private obstetric practice to survive and thrive. Without a successful private sector, regional public hospital services will continue to collapse under the pressure of overwork. As we have seen, this results in a complete failure of services for the women and families who need them.

We are currently conducting our own survey on working in regional areas so that we can update our proposals with tactics that will attract and retain O&G specialists to regional areas. I encourage you to take part and help inform the solutions.

The most recent Maternity Roundtable in Brisbane did little to advance the situation. Overall, it featured the same people, same issues and same solutions as previous roundtables and summits held in all parts of the country.

There was no mention of what Queensland Health will do to retain the new obstetricians they have recruited for Gladstone Hospital and no mention of whether these doctors are FIFO or will be living in the town.

Past surveys have told the decision makers that keeping an obstetric workforce in regional Queensland depends on fair remuneration, access to private practice and involvement in patient care from the beginning. These are systemic issues that need to be in place before the situation genuinely can turn around.

All that said, this last Roundtable was the first time that the role of the private sector was even mentioned in service delivery, especially in the regions.

A number of delegates specifically mentioned the role of the private sector, both as a carrot to attract specialists and to help manage workload. The need for Federal/State cooperation to effect any real change was also made perfectly clear. Federal Assistant Health Minister Ged Kearney was present and spoke about how much the Federal Government is doing to strengthen Medicare, however, made no mention of tackling the private health insurers or indexing Medicare rebates. These shortcomings and how their resolution could help. were pointed out to her once again.

New Queensland Health Minister, Shannon Fentiman took part in the entire Roundtable, taking the time to visit each table and talk to those attending. Here’s hoping the message gets through.

Even the Premier attended for around 20 minutes, to listen to Queensland Health’s update telling those assembled what a great job the department was doing!

It is acknowledged that without some clear agreed direction and action, the situation in Queensland is not going to change. And the situation nationally will start to follow.

In the meantime….

At the end of the latest Roundtable, the delegates universally agreed that the group needed to continue the discussion, but have it coupled with concrete action.

Surely it’s time now for a little less conversation and a LOT more action?

A/Prof Gino Pecoraro OAM

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