RACGP alarmism should be driving the AMA not climate

AMA.pngThe Royal Australian College of General Practitioners logo

Now it all makes sense. The Australian Medical Association’s (AMA) latest push on climate change doesn’t appear to be about saving the planet but looking to safeguard its own survival. AMA’s main rival association, the Royal Australian College of General Practitioners (RACGP) seems to be on the right prescription medication as far as membership growth and revenue goes. 

The AMA’s climate push seems to be a concerted effort to lock in future revenues by appealing to students. AMA ‘Associate Medical Student Members‘ have ballooned in the last two years from 8,664 to 15,311 to offset the (pardon the pun) flatline in regular members which have hovered a shade under 30,000 members since 2016. Previous AMA annual reports (AR) make no mention of hard membership numbers. The 2015 AR made reference to 30,000+ members which suggest it wasn’t 31,000+. Students, who now represent over 1/3rd of members, can join for free. Undoubtedly the strategy lies in the hope those students roll over to become fully paid members when they start to practice.

Last year, Dr Bill Coote, former Secretary-General of the AMA (1992-98) wrote in Medical Republic,

In 1962, more than 95% of doctors belonged to the AMA. By 1987 it was 50%. AHPRA reports that in 2016 there were 107,179 registered medical practitioners. The 2016 AMA annual report notes a membership of 29,425. That is 27% of doctors.

Since 2012, AMA annual membership collections have shown relatively anaemic growth from around $11m in 2012 to $12.4m in 2018 from its 29,659 full paying members. Revenues have shown similarly slow growth. Revenues (ex any asset sales) have grown from $20.29m in 2012 to $22.35m in 2018. 10% growth over 6 years.

What of the RACGP?

The RACGP has 35,385 full members and 5,493 student members. Moreover, the group collected $34.6m in membership fees in 2018, near as makes no difference three times the AMA.

Isn’t this just a classic case of customers appreciating what they pay for? Will those AMA student members work out – when forced to shell out hard dollars on membership – as they embark on their medical career that the RACGP is the go-to organisation? Any manner of conference cocktail parties will undoubtedly whisper the realities of membership benefits of both organisations. Surely the more seasoned doctors will make their preferences known. After all, students are more likely to pin their formative years to guru practitioners in the profession rather than lean on the musings of an association that provides cheaper hire car tariffs and frequent flyer club perks.

Revenues for the RACGP have more than doubled from $38.6m in 2012 to $83.1m in 2018.

Maybe Dr. Coote has found the problem when he wrote, ”

AMA members’ fees fund the Medical Journal of Australia. The MJA is uniquely positioned to promote serious commentary on the policy, regulatory and economic changes reshaping Australian medical practice, but now seems to prioritise the interests of academic doctors...The decline in AMA membership penetration from 95% to 50% to 27% of doctors is a significant historical trend.  A US management guru once suggested, organisations are at risk if they respond to a changing environment by redoubling their efforts to do things the way they have always done them…Let’s hope the AMA does not become the Kodak of Australian medical history.”

Climate change might seem to be a woke avenue to do things differently at the AMA, but surely it stands to learn a lot more by studying why the RACGP is surgically keeping it in the ICU rather than pursue fields it has no expertise in an attempt to revive itself. If the AMA board pursues such amputated strategies it is bound to find itself running out of bandages before its members realise that cauterizing membership cash flow is the only viable long term option.

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