RACGP welcomes new Victorian Health Minister

Paul Hayes

27/09/2020 10:19:54 AM

Martin Foley comes to the role following the resignation of Jenny Mikakos.

Martin Foley
Minister Foley is keen to start working with Victorians under ‘enormously difficult circumstances’ to achieve a ‘COVID-normal reopening’. (Image: AAP)

The RACGP stands ready to work closely with the new minister and wants to ensure general practice is better incorporated in the state’s emergency planning structures, RACGP Victoria Chair Dr Cameron Loy said.
‘On behalf of the RACGP Board, members and executive team, I welcome Minister Foley to the role,’ Dr Loy said.
‘Our intention is to work closely with Minister Foley and his office on the issues that matter to general practice and Victorian patients.
‘With the COVID-19 pandemic still presenting extraordinary challenges for general practice care across the state, there is not a moment to lose. We must ensure that general practice is better integrated into the Victorian Government’s emergency management apparatus.’
The incoming Health Minister said he is keen to start working with Victorians under ‘enormously difficult circumstances’ to achieve a ‘COVID-normal reopening’.
GPs and primary care will be vital to a successful reopening – and beyond – Dr Loy said.
‘We look forward to charting a new course forward with Minister Foley to ensure our GPs have what they need to look after patients in all Victorian communities,’ he said.
‘Primary care will be vital in managing the long-term health impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic. That includes a likely increase in mental health concerns, the effects of people delaying or avoiding seeking care as well as the impacts of the COVID-19 virus itself on the long-term physical and mental wellbeing of patients.
‘GPs will be front and centre in helping these patients in the months and years ahead and we need the right support from the Victorian Government to do so.
‘It is also vital that general practice has sufficient stock of personal protective equipment such as gloves, masks, eye protection and gowns. Some Victorian GPs have not always been able to obtain adequate supplies or have taken a hit to their hip pocket due to price surges in the private market and that must change.’

Speaking on Sunday after the Victorian Government announced a number of changes to the state’s coronavirus restrictions, Minister Foley said he will be ‘working every day with the outstanding public servants and health professionals and the people who bind the health system together’.

‘I will be working with all of those professionals to make sure that we suppress this virus, and that we then are in a position where we contact trace, we quarantine and isolate where we need, and we keep this virus at the lowest possible levels. We are nearly there,’ he said.
Minister Foley comes to role after Jenny Mikakos announced her resignation as Victorian Health Minister on Saturday morning.
‘I have today written to the Governor of Victoria to resign my commissions as a Minister effective today,’ Ms Mikakos said in a statement. ‘I will also be resigning from the Parliament.’

Former Victorian Health Minister Jenny Mikakos drew GPs’ ire early in the pandemic when she criticised a coronavirus-infected Melbourne GP who worked for several days with minor cold-like symptoms. (Image: AAP)
Ms Mikakos’ resignation comes in the wake of Victoria’s inquiry into the state’s troubled hotel quarantine program.
Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews on Friday told the inquiry that the Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) – of which Ms Mikakos was leader as State Health Minister – was the control agency primarily responsible for the program.
‘I have never wanted to leave a job unfinished but in light of the Premier’s statement to the board of inquiry and the fact there are elements in it that I strongly disagree with, I believe that I cannot continue to serve in his cabinet,’ Ms Mikakos said in her statement.
Ms Mikakos drew the ire of the general practice profession early in the coronavirus pandemic, when she criticised a coronavirus-infected Melbourne GP who worked for several days after returning from the US with minor cold-like symptoms.
In early March, Dr Chris Higgins tested positive to the infection after he had treated more than 70 patients while having what he thought was a mild cold. Dr Higgins initially hesitated to test himself because he did not meet the Government’s own criteria at the time, but decided to do one ‘for sake of completeness’.
Ms Mikakos said she was ‘flabbergasted’ that a doctor with ‘flu-like symptoms’ had presented to work. The comments drew an immediate reaction from Dr Higgins, healthcare workers and medical groups, including the RACGP. 
‘We need out health ministers to lead and inspire trust and confidence in the advice and responses to the rapidly changing circumstances when it comes to the coronavirus, not to decrease morale’ then-RACGP President Dr Harry Nesplon said at the time.
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