The Australian Medical Association is one of Australia’s peak lobby groups.
It is a prominent and active pressure group with direct links to State and Federal governents through its relationship with the various Health Departments. The information on this page is taken from the AMA’s web-site.
The Organisation, Goals and Objectives
The Australian Medical Association is an independent organisation which represents more than 26,000 doctors, whether salaried or in private practice, whether general practitioners, specialists, teachers and researchers or young doctors.
It also represents the public face of Australian medicine. It is the vehicle through which doctors fulfil their obligations to the community as advocates for those with neither power nor influence. The AMA is an agent of change, a voice of reason and an independent leader of societal values.
The AMA has a federal structure, with branches in each state and territory which focus primarily on state matters, and a Canberra-based federal body which deals with national issues.
In addition to their elected office-bearers, both the federal and state bodies have secretariats of paid employees who assist the office-bearers in the day to day affairs of the Association.
Members of the AMA are committed to enduring professional values, excellence in teaching and research, and the delivery of high quality health care to all Australians, regardless of gender, political beliefs or geographic location.
The Federal AMA is governed by its Federal Council, a body of 30 members representing the different specialities, the Branches, junior doctors and medical students.
A primary function of the Federal Council is the formulation of policies on issues of concern to the profession. These policies cover almost every facet of health care from alcohol consumption through to veterans’ affairs and workers compensation.
A six-member management committee, known as the Executive Council, runs the day to day affairs of the Federal AMA.
Branches of the British Medical Association were formed in Australia the late nineteenth century onwards. Before the formation of Australia’s specialist Colleges, the Branches held regular meetings to discuss medical developments and unusual cases.
The BMA Branches formally merged into the Australian Medical Association in 1962.
Key concerns of the Branches and Federal body include ethics, political representation, provision of economic and industrial services to members, the promotion of medical education and research, and the improvement of public health.
The Federal AMA provides a range of services to members, including:
- Health Services: The AMA works on a wide range of public health and medical issues including mental health, Aboriginal health, the health of unemployed people and the harmful effects of smoking.
- Industrial Relations: Industrial advice and assistance is provided to salaried doctors and other hospital-based medical practitioners.
- Medical Fees: The Association produces the AMA’s list of medical services and fees, used by many doctors as a guide to setting fees.
- General Practice: Advice and support services are supplied to the AMA’s Council of General Practice which represents GPs across the country.
- Hospital Policy: This department works on issues and policies affecting doctors who work in both public and private hospitals. It looks at issues such as hospital funding, Medicare agreements, casemix and managed care.
Branches also provide a comprehensive range of state-based services and benefits to members and take an active interest in all aspects of health care delivery in the states and territories.
The AMA’s Federal and State presidents have a high public profile and are often featured in the media responding to current health and medical issues or announcing AMA initiatives and campaigns.
The Federal President and other office-bearers are elected at the AMA’s annual national conference, held in May each year. The Federal President is elected for a one year term with a maximum of three consecutive years.
Public Health – a Vital Agenda
The AMA has a long-standing commitment to improving public health. Apart from developing policies, it lobbies hard for change. It has taken action on many health issues, including:
- promotion of Aboriginal health
- care of the elderly
- women’s health issues
- reduction of alcohol abuse
- environmental health
- road trauma
- tobacco control
The AMA works with many other health and medical organisations in Australia and overseas on a broad range of medical, health and social issues. These bodies include the medical Colleges, the National Health and Medical Research Council, federal and state governments, and the World Medical Association.
Commitment to Medical Research
The AMA also makes a major commitment to medical research and education through the publication of the prestigious Medical Journal of Australia. The Journal, published since 1914, is the only peer-reviewed general medical journal in Australia. It reports original research carried out by doctors and other health professionals in Australia and overseas.
The AMA also publishes a fortnightly news magazine, Australian Medicine, which keeps members up to date with the latest in health news. In addition, each Branch publishes its own news magazine/journal bringing important news and information to members.
The AMA keeps in regular contact with a large number of politicians, political parties and government ministers. It frequently presents submissions to, and appears before, committees inquiring into health issues.
It is also represented on a number of government committees, ensuring that the voice of the profession is heard well before decisions are made. It also keeps politicians informed about the views of the profession in order to help achieve better health outcomes for all Australians.
The AMA frequently runs campaigns to influence or change government decisions which it believes may not be in the country’s best interests. It is also quick to praise sensible decisions, particularly where public health is concerned. Examples of such campaigns include a successful push to establish a government advisory group on road trauma, a campaign to prevent the introduction into Australia of US-style managed care, and a push to have the Federal Government pass anti-tobacco sponsorship legislation.
Long-term initiatives include efforts to improve the health status of Aboriginal people, reduce public hospital waiting lists and improve funding for medical research in Australia.