Frustrated GPs urged to follow ophthalmologists’ lead
GPs frustrated by the lack of action to combat the Rudd Government’s reform agenda might look to their ophthalmologist colleagues for inspiration on how to make their voices heard.
The Australian Society of Ophthalmologists (ASO) and the Independent Ophthalmic Network (ION) have launched a high-profile campaign – Grandma’s Not Happy – in protest at the Government’s 2009 Budget decision to slash MBS rebates for cataract surgery by 50 per cent.
According to Dr Peter Sumich, ASO executive committee member and ION chair, the measure would see older patients unable to access the surgery.
He said members of the bodies decided to fund the campaign – via increased membership fees and one-off donations – after months of unproductive negotiations.
Radio and press advertisements direct the public to a website spelling out the ophthalmologists’ case, and Dr Sumich said the public response had been overwhelming.
He encouraged frustrated GPs to consider a similar approach. “[GPs] have to stand up for themselves, and for their patients,” he said.
Dr Bill Glasson, vice-president of the Royal Australian and New Zealand College of Ophthalmologists and former AMA president, agreed and suggested perhaps it was time GPs formed their own medico-political group.
“Perhaps it could be a separate arm of the AMA,” he said.
But AMA vice-president Dr Steve Hambleton said GPs were already represented by the council of general practice.
Robust discussions with Government, rather than media campaigns, he added, were the preferred way forward.
“That does not mean we are going to roll over,” he said.
“Obviously we disagree with some things the Government is pushing, but we have said if they must do these things, we are the ones to tell them how to minimise the damage.”