College Council Communiqué May 2020

The Board of the Royal Australasian College of Physicians (the College) established the College Council in 2015 to act as its peak advisory body on strategic and cross-specialty issues. In this capacity, the College Council responds to issues the Board refers to it, as well as raising issues to the Board that the College Council feels need consideration.

Read the highlights of key issues discussed as part of the 02-2020 meeting, held on Friday 1 May 2020.

The Council has recently experienced a significant turnover of members due to a number of Council position terms falling due in May 2020, aligning with the biennial May College governance changeover. Nominations received from relevant specialty societies and representative groups were approved at the August, September, and October 2020 Board meetings.

College Council Chair, Dr Matthew Strack completed his term at the May 2020 meeting and resigned from the role of Chair. The Council thanked Matthew at the May 2020 Council meeting for his leadership of the Council over the preceding two years and for his role in developing the College Council Executive Committee. Expressions of interest for the Chair position opened to Council members following the August 2020 Board meeting and the Council agreed that I would act as the Council Chair, arising from my role at that time as Deputy Chair.

Internal Medicine Diploma

Council members discussed the establishment of a pilot program in Internal Medicine for doctors in rural and remote regions leading to a diploma. The Council reaffirmed its interest in the College considering how to establish such a program.

College Council Executive Committee — Business Continuity

The College Council Executive Committee (Executive Committee) was established to assist with the continuation of Council work between meetings. Following Council’s May 2020 meeting, appointment of members of the Executive Committee, including myself as Deputy Chair (to May 2022), Dr Tane Taylor (to May 2021) and Dr Robert Van Den Berg (co-opted until the formation of the 2020–22 Committee is approved), were ratified after an initial 12-month term.

Executive Committee members agreed to consider ways to strengthen the link between the Executive Committee and the wider Council, and how to better share information. The Executive Committee met in July to progress this and other Council work plan matters.

COVID-19 update

Council members received updates from the Executive General Managers for Policy and Advocacy, and Education Learning and Assessment, on the College’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic, including the specific impact on exams, training progression, and training site accreditation. Council members noted that the Expert Clinical Reference Group, established by and reporting to the Board, was the peak advisory body for the College’s response to COVID-19. Council members commended the hard work being undertaken by Education Learning and Assessment, acknowledging the quick decisions, establishment of committees and making judgements in uncertain circumstances.

Council was also briefed on the staff response group at the College. The initial focus of the staff response group was logistics around transition to working from home, events, meetings, and travel, and then shifted to advocacy. The Council requested an evaluation of lessons learnt and how these may be of benefit in the future.

Members were reminded that relevant information regarding COVID-19 is available.

Indigenous health equity and COVID-19 responses

Council was advised that the Māori Health Committee (MHC) had issued a statement to the Ministry of Health in support of the National Māori Response Group, which was well-received. The statement addressed Māori health, leadership, and decision making, and sought to ensure that the response to COVID-19 and any rationing of health care does not intensify existing health issues.

Read MHC statement (PDF). A similar statement was issued by the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Health Committee (ATSIHC) in Australia.

It was recognised that Indigenous cultures are more significantly impacted by a pandemic than non-Indigenous communities, and learnings must be taken to work towards lessening such considerable impacts in the future. We encourage members to identify and engage in actions among their own workplaces and networks to achieve consistent Indigenous health equity.

Regional and rural physician strategy

As part of the Council work plan, we are committed to improving regional and rural access to specialist care. A vision statement was developed at our May 2020 meeting that will guide a working party to develop the proposed strategy. We will consult with a range of internal and external stakeholders throughout this project. Further details will be advised in due course.

Specialist Training Program (STP)

The RACP’s STP Program Manager joined our meeting to provide Council members with an update on STP funding following the Department of Health’s review of posts in 2019. There is growing concern regarding positions in Community Child Health and Public Health Medicine that have lost funding due to the review as this may impact trainees’ ability to complete their training. Further work will be progressed with the Executive Committee to address these concerns and assist trainees; however, members are advised to advocate at a local level.

Honorary Fellowship policy

Council members discussed at the May 2020 meeting, a proposal from the Fellowship Committee regarding changes to the Policy Governing the Award of Honorary Fellowship. The changes considered were around whether the Honorary Fellowship Policy should allow an honour to be granted by the College to a former member who has ceased their membership if they have moved overseas or other reason yet are deserving of an award. Members were supportive of retaining the ability to honour members in this way.

Professor Nicholas Buckmaster
Deputy Chair, College Council
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