COVID-19 Pandemic Communique – June 2020

The Council of Presidents of Medical Colleges met virtually on 18 June 2020 to discuss the COVID Pandemic and related issues. All College President and Chief Executives extended their appreciation for the efforts of all health service personnel working during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Dr Kym Jenkins, FRANZCP and Chair CPMC welcomed Ms Jane Halton AO PSM, National COVID Commissioner to address Council President on the role of the Commission which has two key roles of helping to minimise and mitigate the impact on COVID-19 on jobs and businesses, and to facilitate the fastest possible recovery of lives and livelihoods. The Commissioner outlined her focus areas of Health (including Health education), social services, finance and banking, immunity assurance and not for profits. Remarking on the impact of COVID-19 on business, the economy and intersections within, the discussion focussed on what policy settings should alter to better prepare Australia for any second wave or future pandemic such as national PPE stockpiles.

Council acknowledged the process of enabling enhanced access to telemedicine had been effective and the uptake was noted as high, however the RACP raised a concern regarding regulating the quality of delivery. CPMC will work with the government to satisfy the issue of evidence and quality.

The RCPA noted with concern the proliferation of diagnostic devices entering the market which were not tested for effectiveness. Key to ensuring the effective control of the pandemic was increased testing.

Through her role as Chair, Coalition for Economic Preparedness Innovation (CEPI) Ms Halton provided an overview of the issues associated with the development of a vaccine working closely with the World health Organisation which will determine the priority groups for any successful vaccines. Council appreciated the briefing from Ms Halton.

Department of Health Update: CPMC received an update on the Medicare Benefits Schedule review and the development of a set of principles around the introduction and retention of Tele-health MBS items. With the MBS Review Taskforce winding up by 30 June 2020, the focus by the Medicare Review Unit is on developing a major report on its findings, non COVID related.

Medical Workforce Update: The Medical Workforce Reform Advisory Committee has shifted focus on lessons learnt from the pandemic crisis and in particular what steps should be taken to gather data and investigate innovative solutions that could be used into the future. On this matter, it was acknowledged that CPMC had lodged a proposal to review and analyse the impact of COVID-19 on the medical training system. The proposal will examine what has worked, what was sub-optimal and where changes should occur to ensure preparedness for the future.  A major issue will be how to conduct exams in the future to adhere with social responsibility guidelines.

Critical Care Update: Dr Raper AM, President of the College of Intensive Care Medicine noted the pressure on the service has reduced. A policy issue remains regarding PPE access. Dr Mary Pinder, President-elect, CICM was in attendance, as was Ms Julia Harper, recently appointed CEO. CPMC thanked Mr Phil Hart for his service and contribution to CPMC over the decade.

New Zealand Update: Dr John Bonning, President ACEM and Chair, Council of Medical Colleges addressed the Council noting the appointment of Ms Virginia Mills as Executive Director. The delay in re-opening the Trans-Tasman bubble was noted in the context of recent COVID-19 cases and therefore the impact on examinations for bi-national Colleges.  The release of the final report of the Review of the Health and Disability Sectors which had as its aim, ensuring the system is better balanced towards wellness, equity, access and sustainability, was noted in the context of the significance of the recommendations and investment necessary to achieve these recommendations. The report is at: https://systemreview.health.govt.nz/final-report/executive-overview/recommendations/

Primary Care Update: Associate Professor Ewen McPhee, President ACRRM briefed Council on the concerns regarding viability of general practices, the importance of maintaining access to telehealth and the need for a workforce augmentation for rural sector.

Next Meeting CPMC will next meet in a virtual context for Colleges only on Thursday 16th July 2020.

FOR NOTING: The next full meeting of CPMC comprising the Professions Observer Forum along with Colleges will occur virtually on Thursday 20th August 2020. Pending the COVID-19 situation the 19th November 2020 meeting of CPMC will convene in Sydney at GMT/RACP.

CONTACTS

Dr Kym Jenkins, Chair CPMC on email: cpmcchair@cpmc.edu.au

Ms Angela Magarry, CEO, CPMC on email: ceo@cpmc.edu.au or mobile 0437227422