Royal Australasian College of Medical Administrators 2016 Annual Scientific Meeting: Harm Free Health Care
Distinguished guests, ladies and gentlemen. I am delighted that in its 30th year, the Royal Australasian College of Medical Administrators has chosen Brisbane for this Annual Scientific Meeting, and I extend a warm Queensland welcome to all those who have travelled here from interstate and overseas.
While this Conference has a very serious purpose, it would be remiss of me not to mention to our visitors that you are gathering at the heart of one of Queensland’s most exciting artistic and cultural precincts.
Winding between them all is our ever moving, ever changing Brisbane River.
A stroll along the river is one of Brisbane’s great pleasures, and one I encourage you to undertake should you have a spare moment in your busy program.
This is not the first time I have been invited to speak at a RACMA (pron. Rack-ma) Conference.
I last did so back in the Year 2000, as Chief Justice of Queensland, Chairman of the Queensland Cancer Fund and President of the Australian Cancer Society.
I don’t know why it has taken 17 years to address you again.
Perhaps my speech was so incredible it lived in memory for 17 years – or perhaps it took 17 years for everyone to forget it! Whatever the reason, I am delighted to return.
Reading back through that first speech, I realized that RACMA is still using the same logo.
This struck me as somewhat unusual, given the fashion for revisiting and renewing corporate branding.
To endure, the logo must still have meaning and resonance for the College, almost three decades on from its adoption at the Second Annual General Meeting of the College Council in August 1969.
For those among our guests who many not be familiar with it, the logo of the College is the staff of Asclepius with its winding snake, superimposed on a book of learning and edged with sheaves of Australian wheat.
A familiar symbol of the medical profession since ancient times, the deeper meaning of the Asclepian staff entwined with a snake has long been the subject of debate.
For the Greek philosopher Cornutus, writing in the first century, the snake symbolized renewal; thanks to the ministrations of the disciples of Asclepios the ill patient shed his illness much as the snake shed its skin.
Of course in modern Australia, the snake is feared – quite properly, given our many venomous snakes – as a bringer of harm, even death.
It provides an interesting reflection on your Conference theme of “Harm Free Health Care”, and the debate as to whether health care can be harm free.
As a former judge I have a particular perspective on this issue, having adjudicated on many cases where patients came to harm in a medical setting.
The court system is very good at adjudicating individual cases, at assessing damage and apportioning responsibility.
But outside its purview are the larger issues of changing expectations, of the implications of innovation and technological progress, and the constantly shifting landscape of healthcare in Australia.
These are complex issues, but critically important to improving the health of Australians, and I can think of no better body than this one to conduct this vitally important debate.
Likewise, the complexity of providing ‘harm-free healthcare’ in military and disaster medicine, and the growing challenge of protecting health care workers from harm deserve the careful analysis and consideration I know they will receive at this Conference.
The translation of the College’s Latin motto means: “Let us progress in unity by working together in harmony”.
In the spirit of that noble aspiration, I hope your conference proceeds in unity and in harmony, and am delighted to now declare officially open the Royal Australasian College of Medical Administrators 2016 Annual Scientific Meeting.