COUNCIL OF PRESIDENTS OF MEDICAL COLLEGES
COMMUNIQUE August 2020
Dr Kym Jenkins, Chair, CPMC opened the 139th meeting of CPMC at 9am on Thursday 20th August. The meeting was dedicated to the memory of Dr Harry Nespolon, President RACGP who passed away 27th July 2020. All present remembered Dr Nespolon with a minute’s silence.
The serious impact COVID-19 has had on the Australian and New Zealand populations with a resurgence of the disease in the general and aged care communities, and the need to move to tighter lockdown restrictions was noted with concern for the mental health and wellbeing of all, particularly those in clinical and support roles. CPMC recognises with concern that COVID-19 has had a major impact on the system of medical training and future workforce supply requirements. It will immediately undertake a research project to examine the training pipeline from medical school through the prevocational and specialist training space along with the impact on trained specialists to develop policy options to further inform the development of the National Medical Workforce Strategy, being undertaken by the Department of Health.
The CPMC Professions Observer Forum is comprised of all specialist Medical College Presidents, staff and representatives from the twelve professional organisations. Meeting quarterly the reports are comprehensive and go into some depth regarding the activities undertaken which impact Australia’s health care system and particularly the medical sector. At this August forum, it was clear that each organisation has been impacted by COVID-19 and the consequences from the disruption to training and potential medium to longer term workforce challenges evident.
Professor David Ellwood, President Australian Medical Council indicated no accreditation site visits will occur in 2020, and the workshop on programmatic assessment and conducting assessment in a changing environment will occur in 2021. The partnership with the Australian Digital Health Agency to explore a digitally capable health workforce was discussed in the context of the medical curriculum. Mr Philip Pigou, CEO, AMC was also in attendance.
Professor Paul Kelly, Commonwealth Chief Medical Officer focussed primarily on the Australian Government’s response to the COVID pandemic reiterating the underlying policy of testing, tracing and isolation; border controls and working with jurisdictions on workforce supply. An update on the management of the residential aged sector and vaccine development was provided. College Presidents raised their concern to ensure appropriate specialist medical expertise was available on the national committees, that sufficient supplies of personal protective equipment was available (and effectively communicated), that consideration be given to assessing travel restrictions to assist in completion of examinations. A discussion occurred in relation to the MBS Review, the MBS rebates, and digital telehealth. Dr Andrew Singer AM, Principal Medical Adviser Department of Health was also in attendance.
Professor Anne Kelso, CEO, National Health and Medical Research Council reflected on the difference the impact of COVID-19 has had on research capacity in Australia, however the programs had pivoted to ensure delivery of its 2020 grant round, with the exception of the cancelled Synergy Grant. The Clinical Trials and Cohort Studies Grant scheme is open. The National COVID Health and Research Advisory Committee was established to provide advice on Australia’s health response to COVID to the Commonwealth Chief Medical Officer focussing on better understanding the clinical issues associated with COVID -19.
Dr Anne Tonkin, Chair Medical Board of Australia and Mr Martin Fletcher, CEO, Australian Health Practitioners Regulating Agency remarked on the COVID situation from a regulatory perspective and these have been communicated to medical practitioners and other stakeholders, such as meeting CPD requirements and registration. The AHPRA Pandemic response sub-register remains in place to enable the fast tracking of experienced and qualified health practitioners to the register. The 2020 National medical training survey is open during the August and September registration renewal period. The MBA continues to develop the Professional Performance Framework. The Good Practice Guidelines for specialist international medical graduates have been approved and are now standards.
Australian Indigenous Doctors’ Association (AIDA) noted the specific focus on ensuring effective messaging and advisories on COVID was available for their membership. The AIDA 20-21 Powerful Voice conference has been rescheduled to 2021. AIDA and CPMC jointly published the Specialist Trainees in the Medical Workforce Project focussed on growing Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander medical specialists, and this is available on both organisation’s websites.
Professor Villis Marshall, Chair Australian Commission on Safety and Quality in Health Care (ACSQHC) is actively involved in supporting the national response to COVID-19 with having established a rapid response unit focussed on developing specific resources which are published on the website: https://www.safetyandquality.gov.au/publications-and-resources/resource-library/covid-19-web-resources CPMC and the Commission released guidelines in improving antimicrobial prescribing and the Health Minister has funded the development of a Sepsis Clinical Care Standard. The 4th Australian Atlas of Healthcare Variation will now be released in early 2021 focussed on 16 topics across six clinical themes.
Dr Omar Khorshid, President Australian Medical Association focussed specifically on medical workforce impact from COVID-19, including the mental health and wellbeing of all health care workers. A significant amount of COVID related information and opinion is available for doctors and the public at: www.ama.com.au Mr Martin Laverty, Secretary-General was in attendance.
Professor Richard Murray, President Medical Deans of Australia and New Zealand reported on how the medical schools are working to support the effective and uninterrupted education for their medical students given the border restrictions, pausing of access to clinical placements, and assessments and exams. There is a concern regarding the impact on medical workforce and particularly supply given the disruption to the recruitment of international junior doctors. Ms Helen Craig, CEO, MDANZ was also in attendance.
Dr Claire Blizzard, Chair, Confederation of Postgraduate Medical Education Councils which oversees the education of post medical school graduates through to when doctors enter specialist training, updated the forum on specific activities to manage their training and wellbeing.
Mr Daniel Zhou, President Australian Medical Students’ Association (AMSA) remarked on the deep impacts on medical student education and wellbeing with their focus on continuity of medical education and clinical placements. An update on jurisdictional workforce roles such as assistants in medicine was noted as enabling medical students to gain clinical education in COVID clinics. International travel restrictions and student exemptions have posed a barrier for international medical students.
Dr Hashim Abdeen, President AMA Council of Doctors in Training presented to the forum on initiatives underway to allow vocational trainees to succeed with examinations and progress through training during CPVID-19. CPMC is working with the AMACDIT on a variety of other initiatives such as webinars with the Deputy Chief Medical Officer to discuss impacts on doctors in training. There is an interactive document developed to keep trainees up-to-date on what decisions specialist Medical Colleges have made to progress examinations.
This was the final meeting for Dr Heather Mack, President Royal Australia and New Zealand College of Ophthalmologists and for Dr Ewen McPhee, President Australian College of Rural and Remote Medicine.
At 11:15am, the forum concluded noting the next full peak forum meeting is 19th November, in a virtual context, and it will be spaced over half a day to enable further discussion and exploration of issues.
Authorised for release by Dr Kym Jenkins, Chair CPMC 21 August 2020.
Contact: Angela Magarry, CPMC Chief Executive
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COUNCIL OF PRESIDENTS OF MEDICAL COLLEGES