WHEN the time comes to sell my house, I am not hiring the RACGP to do it for me, but I’ll certainly consider the Pharmacy Guild of Australia.
Generally, there is only a handful of established approaches to resource allocation, and even fewer ways when applied to the area of healthcare.
Examples are rational, incremental and pragmatic. These styles, although they may sometimes overlap, are not always mutually exclusive.
Although all health planners ultimately see themselves — at least partly — as “rational”, their visions eventually end up as “incremental” plans after going through various bureaucratic processes.
But in either case, the original dictate for any planners in public policy arena is ideological; that is, it is expected to be translatable into political goals.
It is fair to say, therefore, that perhaps the only way to try to achieve significant change in any public policy (in our case, examples are whether to allocate resources to primary or tertiary healthcare, or to general practice or pharmaceuticals) is by influencing the politics behind the decision-making
processes; that is, in the political arenas at state and federal levels.
As this is not a place for a treatise on politics or health planning, suffice it to say that, other than voting for a particular political party, it is by influencing the key figures in the party in government.
Only then may it be possible to change decisions on public health policy.
Of course, any lobbying may have ideological, political or personal agendas behind it.
But the extent of its utility appears to be appreciated better by certain groups in our healthcare system
who lobby more effectively than others.
The achievements of the Pharmacy Guild of Australia are a good example.
With a masterstroke, the guild has scored a spectacular success for its entire membership, at little cost and fanfare, that will improve the lot of thousands of its members.
At the other end of the spectrum, we have the RACGP, which is said to have splurged $500,000 on TV advertisements during MasterChef. The only tangible benefit — and then only to some members — has been a plaque for their desks but very little else.
How and why a non-profit membership organisation, once on the verge of bankruptcy, can amass such a huge amount of cash is a subject for another article. The contrast, though, between the investment and the outcome achieved by the two organisations is indeed remarkable.
Notwithstanding the above, it is a cliché to say “respect is commanded and it is not demanded”.
Even on this account, it seems the RACGP has let its membership down, yet again.
Perhaps it is about time the RACGP took a leaf out of the Pharmacy Guild’s political recipe books and started attending some political party fundraisers where, anecdotally, one can get a minister’s ear for a song.
27 August 2015 ; Medical Observer
Dr Marshal is the author of ‘Human Machine: Owner’s Manual & Basic Trouble Shooting’, which is
available on Amazon.com