Hospitals are number one in their list of concerns. They are worried about being left on a trolley for hours in a corridor and they fear being ferried around from hospital to hospital looking for a bed. Many older people are worried about the cost of their medication.
What’s the single biggest issue confronting the health system at present in your view?
Costs. We have to start a serious debate about limiting our research and pursuit of expensive treatments to focus on the best outcomes for most people at a reasonable cost. I understand this is a difficult issue for doctors, who want to save all lives, but the capacity of the community to pay is finite and medical costs are galloping out of control.
What’s your personal experience of our health care system?
I suffer ruddy good health – which my wife suggests is a good thing given my trenchant criticisms of parts of the health system. She has arrangements for me to be airlifted by medivac to another state if I get seriously ill! Humour aside, I’ve never been seriously ill and I have a very good longstanding relationship with my GP who provides me with excellent service.
The media tends to focus on conflict situations because it makes a good story. Why don’t we read or hear more ?good news’ stories about the medical profession?
I can’t take this question seriously. There are so many good news stories about health that it’s a wonder half the profession hasn’t been bestowed with sainthoods for doing their jobs.
Do you think the medical profession needs to market itself better?
Overall, people still admire and respect doctors and nurses more than anyone else in the community. However, the industrial and political practices of doctors’ lobby groups confuse the situation. The AMA is an effective political and industrial tool, but it dominates the public image of doctors. The colleges and other associations need to engage more in the public debate about medicine and the AMA should retreat to looking after the financial interests of doctors. While the AMA attempts to do both there will be suspicions of self-interest.
Do you have any anecdotes from talkback radio that underline your views?
During the Ask The Premier segment, a caller rang in with a personal experience of his mother being kept for many, many hours on a trolley in a hospital corridor. The effect on the Premier was dramatic. He was quite shattered by the emotions coming through his headphones and by his own sense of powerlessness to offer anything that might save the situation. I then realised how potent the issue was. It was akin to the first phone call to the Prime Minister on the program by the widow of the SAS soldier killed in Afghanistan. You see how unprepared politicians are for the everyday tragedies in people’s lives and how their “ivory tower” existences come crashing down when they are exposed to the public.
Yet again, government is trying to ?reform’ public hospital medicine in WA. What do you think their chances of success are and why?
I don’t trust the Gallop Government to take on the power of the AMA in the current debate. I think they’ll get a reasonable blueprint from Mick Reid. I don’t know if they’ve got the political guts to push through with it.