COVID-19 Pandemic Communique – 22 May 2020

The Council of Presidents of Medical Colleges met for its 136th meeting on Friday 22nd May 2020 in a virtual context. The traditional owners of the lands upon which the meeting was held were acknowledged. All College President and Chief Executives extended their appreciation for the efforts of all health service personnel working during the COVID-19 pandemic noting in particular Professor Brendan Murphy, Chief Medical Officer.

The participants noted the change-over in College Presidents of Associate Professor Mark Lane, President Royal Australasian College of Physicians with Dr John Wilson a respiratory physician from Melbourne; and Dr Rodney Mitchell, President, Australian and New Zealand College of Anaesthetists with Dr Vanessa Beavis, an Auckland, New Zealand, based specialist.

Dr Kym Jenkins, Chair CPMC provided an update on the work of specialist Medical Colleges in relation to the coordination of information and management of issues associated with the pandemic ranging from decisions on training and assessment, upskilling, advisories for continuity of care and access to PPE. All Colleges have met weekly since 1st March 2020 and will continue to meet more frequently.

Professor David Ellwood, President of the Australian Medical Council reported on the work of the regulatory body and the offer to Colleges of greater flexibility with assessments and monitoring in 2020.

Professor Brendan Murphy, Chief Medical Officer, provided an update on the COVID pandemic in the context of government measures to suppress the epidemic, the introduction of new telemedicine arrangements and discussed the transition arrangements to re-start the economy and flow on effect to the health sector. Dr Andrew Singer AM was in attendance and spoke to questions raised about the review of the MBS and specialty of Ophthalmology, and expectation the Taskforce will conclude in 2020.

Professor Anne Kelso, CEO, National Health & Medical Research Council referred to changes made to the 2020 Grant program and the allocation of funding for COVID-19 research. The NHMRC noted its intention to boost funding for health services research given the relationship to quality care.

Dr Anne Tonkin, Chair Medical Board of Australia / AHPRA referred to the priority given to addressing the issues arising from the pandemic: the establishment of a sub-register of over 30,000 persons available for practise; the streamlined arrangements for hospital based International Medical Graduates, and the intention to run the National Medical Training Survey for 2020.

Associate Professor Shannon Springer, Vice-President, Australian Indigenous Doctor’s Association referred to the focussed communications by AIDA to members and government on COVID. The release of the report on growing the number of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander medical specialists in the workforce was released and is available on the AIDA, CPMC and MWRAC websites. A decision about conference AIDA2020: A Powerful Voice will be issued by the AIDA Board as to whether it will be virtual.

Professor Villis Marshall, Chair, Australian Commission on Safety & Quality in Health Care referred to the decision to suspend the visits associated maintenance of accreditation in health service organisations and general practices until post COVID-19. The Commission advised of the development of new resources that set out the requirements for the infection prevention and control of COVID-19. The advice and guidance for the health system regarding the resumption of elective surgery was noted.

Dr Tony Bartone, President Australian Medical Association, referred to the extent of the collaboration and access to communication and sharing of advice by all stakeholders throughout the pandemic, paying tribute to Professor Murphy and the team of medical advisers. The AMA noted joint efforts with CPMC on advocating for enhanced access to PPE, telemedicine billing arrangements, and changed arrangements to training and assessments. The AMA raised a concern regarding the future funding of the health sector post pandemic and the impact on the health of the broader Australian population. The resumption of elective surgery was acknowledged as important for all jurisdictions in order to prevent non COVID related health problems emerging. Dr Jenkins thanked Dr Bartone for his contribution throughout his Presidency as this was noted as his final meeting.

Professor Richard Murray, President Medical Deans of Australia and New Zealand referred to the collaborative efforts of all stakeholders across the training pathway that while challenging had demonstrated the adaptability of the medical training system, and he thanked CPMC Chair and CEO. The MDANZ conference will occur virtually.

Dr Claire Blizzard, Chair Confederation of Postgraduate Medical Education Councils referred to the pre-vocational space and clinical training issues arising from the pandemic, and concerns about ensuring a continued supply of sufficient graduates, junior doctors in the hospital system. The review of all the elements of the National Framework for Medical Internships 2019 auspiced by the Council of Australian Governments and managed by the AMC was discussed in the context of the pandemic impact.

Mr Daniel Zou, President Australian Medical Students’ Association referred to the impact of the pandemic on clinical training and a concern by medical students to have sufficient time to complete training, noting there were issues for international students. The AMSA had not supported the Assistants in Medicine as they are not seen as vital to the health sector.

Dr Hashim Abdeen, President, AMA Council of Doctors in Training delivered a short presentation on the initiatives the Council had produced to assist doctors in training ranging from developing COVID related changes to training webpages; waiving examination attempts; support for prevocational trainees via provision of information about changes to selection in training and trainee wellbeing.

CPMC next meets on 18 June, 16 July and 20 August 2020.

Communique released by Dr Kym Jenkins, Chair CPMC. Contact Ms Angela Magarry: ceo@cpmc.edu.au