Relative to much of the world, our two countries have fared well. However, we have all felt and continue to feel the impact on our professional and personal lives, in particular, those facing the high case numbers in Victoria.
Our hearts and thoughts remain with those affected, while we also acknowledge the enormous sacrifices made by so many, including our emergency medicine colleagues. We hope that some of the positive signs of recent weeks mean some easing of the significant pressures we have endured this year, as we continue to find our COVID normal and consider a new ‘post-COVID -normal’.
I will continue to express my gratitude and awe at what has been achieved and endured, and the manner in which the business of our College and work of our members and trainees has forged ahead.
On that note, congratulations to Dr Clare Skinner, who will step into the position of ACEM President-Elect at the upcoming College Annual General Meeting (AGM) on 21 October, following a recent election.
Clare is well known and respected by many, and will bring an excellent level of experience, insight and enthusiasm to the role. I look forward to working closely with Clare during the period ahead.
I would also like to acknowledge and thank the other nominees, Dr Kim Hansen, and Associate Professor Didier Palmer, both worthy and excellent candidates in their own right, who have made, and will continue to make, tremendous contributions to our College.
Congratulations also to Dr Barry Gunn who has been re-elected as Censor-in-Chief of ACEM and Dr Kate Field who has been elected as Deputy Censor-in-Chief, and also to Dr Shannon Townsend, who has been elected as Trainee Member on the ACEM Board. All will commence their terms at the 2020 AGM of the College and assume their positions on the College Board. Excitingly, whilst diversity is by no means just about gender, in a relatively short time we will have moved from the all-male Board of 2018 to a 60% female Board following the AGM.
The election of new Board members also means that several current members will step down at the AGM following the conclusion of their terms. I would like to thank Deputy Censor-in-Chief Associate Professor Gabriel Lau, Trainee Member Dr Swaroop Valluri for their service. Non-FACEM Members Tony Evans and Michael Gorton will also step down from the Board following the conclusion of the maximum period that they are able to serve and I thank them for their service over the considerable time that they have been in their roles. Both have made significant contributions to the College in their respective areas of expertise and have demonstrated the value of having a Board whose composition includes members who are not medical practitioners. New non-FACEM Board members are in the process of being finalised and confirmed, with announcements to come shortly.
My sincere thanks also goes to the College’s Immediate Past President, and my predecessor as President, Dr Simon Judkins, who will also be stepping down from the Board. I am sure you will all agree Simon’s contribution has been immense in his various roles, and we are grateful to him. I also thank those who have been willing to stand for positions at recent elections, and who were not successful.
As a College we have maintained a focus on the issues of importance to our emergency medicine workforce and continued our advocacy with politicians, health system leaders, chief medical and health officers and in the media across all states and territories and in New Zealand.
One issue that has remained front and centre is deficiencies in mental healthcare systems and structures in both of our countries.
This continues to result in some of our communities’ most vulnerable mental health patients facing dangerously long stays in emergency departments, often 24 hours or longer and sometimes several days in some cases, for admission to hospital or definitive psychiatric care following their initial treatment and assessment by ED staff.
While these harmful systemic problems and issues well pre-date COVID-19, there is no question the virus and its impacts have exacerbated and presented a whole new layer of complexity and urgency to what have long been distressing issues. In each Australian state and territory, and across Aotearoa New Zealand, you would be hard pressed to find a location where failings in our mental healthcare systems and their associated negative impacts have not been on display.
Building on our mental health advocacy, the College was pleased in September to launch the Nowhere else to go: why Australia’s health system results in people with mental illness getting ‘stuck’ in emergency departments report.
Prepared for the College by the Mitchell Institute at Victoria University, the report provides a comprehensive set of recommendations and reforms to help improve care for members of the community seeking mental health support, and address unsustainable pressures on hospital emergency departments (EDs).
The College also hosted a successful webinar to further discuss the issues and findings of the report, which will provide further solid foundations to our ongoing advocacy. My thanks go to all involved in the webinar and the preparation of this important report.
Another major focus for the College throughout 2020 has been ACEM examinations and our efforts to allow these to proceed wherever possible in order for trainees to be able to progress through training. Throughout the year we have been ever-mindful of the impact and anxiety the delays and uncertainty has caused for our trainees. We have done our utmost to communicate clearly, provide as much certainty as we can in uncertain times and allow those who wish to proceed with examinations this year, to do so. After some postponements and cancellations over the winter months, the first examination to be held after a six-month hiatus was the Primary Written Examination on Friday 2 October. The Primary Viva and Fellowship Written examination are scheduled for November and the Fellowship Clinical Examination (OSCE) in December. We will continue to provide updates as information becomes available for each, and importantly, wish participating trainees the very best. Please be assured that as a College we are doing everything in our power to ensure everything runs as smoothly as possible, in what is an enormously complex environment. I would like to acknowledge our Council of Education and the Education and Training section of ACEM for their tireless work to get us to this stage.
These tremendous efforts are yet another example of the significant work that has been progressed across our entire College; from Policy and Strategic Partnerships, Corporate Services, and Education and Training, in what has been a far from ordinary year. My sincere thanks to all involved.
While COVID-19 has required changes to examination arrangements this year, so too will the College’s Annual scientific Meeting (ASM) look a bit different. For the first time ever, we will be hosting this important annual gathering ‘virtually’, from 24 to 27 November.
With the program now live online, please take a look, and register for what will undoubtedly be a unique and memorable event. Despite the physical distance and the virtual format of our ASM, we have an important opportunity to learn, connect, socialise, interact and catch up with colleagues. I’m certain we will all enjoy a bit of down time.
Also scheduled to be held through virtual means for the first time will be the College’s Annual General Meeting (AGM), which will be held at 18:00 (AEDT) on Wednesday, 21 October 2020. Notice regarding the AGM has been sent to all members via email. Any members who have not received the notice, or who have any questions in regard to the details of the meeting, should email the College through [email protected] .
Thank you all again for your efforts.
Dr John Bonning