CAREER MEDICAL OFFICERS BULLETIN Volume 1 Number 1 December 1996

The Brennan Report: A purely personal response

Mary G T Webber CMO III Bankstown ED

Timing, they say, isn't everything; timing is the only thing. Call me a cynic, but in this case the timing rather gives the game away.

Following an even earlier process of public tender, The Brennan Report was commissioned, in all good faith, by the joint forces of the AMA, ASMOF, the SPSF and the State and Federal Depts of Health back in September 1995, with a brief to look into the future of the non-specialist hospital and community medical workforce.

Indeed it was commissioned back when the possibility of restrictions in provider numbers was reputedly just a small dark cloud on the horizon. The report was handed down in July 96. In fact, and naturally co-incidentally, about the same time that the providor number announcement was made. It was subsequently presented at `Medical Careers 2000', a meeting of many and various Important Persons, all with very busy schedules requiring substantial advance planning in order for them to be in the ACT on Sept 20 1996, to receive and discuss its implications.

Make no mistake, `Medical Careers 2000' was a meeting dedicated solely to the consideration of Career Structures for Junior Medical Officers. What did they talk about, I hear you ask? Yep, CMO's. Suddenly, we are the hot topic on Everyone's lips. And almost Everyone is prepared to wish us well. Could Everyone only decide who we are.

This new enthusiasm for CMO's has, of course, nothing to do with the restriction of provider numbers to new graduates. Oh dear me, no. We are not being anticipated as a possible dumping ground for the unloved and unsuitable amongst the new graduates. How could you think such a thing? No-one in a position of power and influence is engaged in a quick and dirty action to head off the most important part of the RMO's complaint: that they will now graduate from seven years of tough study and training without the freedom to choose how they will practice their profession. That for substantial numbers of them, no-one knows how many, their MBBS (soon to become a Post-graduate degree, let us not forget) will qualify them for what effectively amounts to a Diploma of Hospital Practice, should they find themselves unwilling or unable to toe the Party Line with the FMP or the Specialist Colleges. Hey, they can always become CMO's.

We all, say the Very Important Persons, regard it as a perfectly viable career option. You have nothing to complain about, and your industrial bargaining power will in no way suffer by this sudden loss of the time-honored and effective ability to vote with your feet. Look here, we couldn't possibly have been informed so far in advance of this looming catasrophe, and failed to inform you while you could still opt for a career in economics. Nevertheless, we just happen to have completed this study showing that you have a third path to personal and professional satisfaction. We'll just whip up a meeting to point this out, by way of demonstrating our solidarity with your cause. We'll hold it in Canberra and invite Everyone Important to decide that CMO is the career path of the future.

And who was Important enough to attend this meeting about the future of the CMOs? Good question and most illuminating. There was invited representation from just about every University, College, and Government Department you can think of. Alphabetically, from the College of Emergency Medicine, all the way through to the Western Australian State Health Dept. Almost anyone who was Anyone in Oz Health had a foot in the door and the right to speak. And invited from the actual ranks of the CMO's themselves, to offer the opinions of CMO's? Dr John Egan, CMO. One small, lone voice in the wilderness.

As to the substance of the report, as opposed to merely its fascinating timing Well, there's good and bad in there. Just as there were both Friend and Foe present at the ACT meeting. I urge you to consider its implications carefully. While you are off doing your jobs and getting on with your lives, Persons of Influence are regarding you as under-priveledged rejects from a real career. If you in turn reject that view, it is time to stand up, during this narrow window of opportunity, claim a voice, and be counted.

Suddenly, we are the hot topic on Everyone's lips.