A statement from the Royal Australasian College of Physicians
One of the great lessons of the 20th century was the danger of ideologies that attempted to squeeze the complexity of the world into their frameworks.
The authors of “The scourge of managerialism and the Royal Australasian College of Physicians”1 have fallen into this trap by attempting to portray as a “corporatisation” framework a series of structural changes being undertaken to make the Royal Australasian College of Physicians (RACP) more focused on the needs of its members.
Komesaroff and colleagues argue that the College is victim to a takeover from a faceless class of managers and technocrats. Proposals for a more streamlined Board and a College Council that bring our disparate specialties together are characterised as markers on the road to a neoliberal dystopia.
The fundamental flaw in the article is that it provides little attention to facts that do not fit in with its argument. In portraying the College's role as “providing a forum for physicians to communicate with each other”, it largely overlooks the objectives of the College that demand it be and remain an outward-looking institution committed to maintaining the highest professional standards, delivering robust training to its 6000 trainees and publicly advocating for the health of the public.
How does the authors' analysis that the College has been captured by faceless managers account for the Australian Medical Council's recent decision to award the College 6 years' accreditation as the sole trainee of specialist physicians in Australia and New Zealand? Why would these supposed disciples of Thatcher and Reagan be allowing such a progressive advocacy agenda? At our recent Congress, the RACP adopted a progressive and controversial policy on asylum seekers; embraced the complexity of medicinal marijuana and end-of-life care; and grappled with confronting issues like gender identity and Indigenous health. The Board recently voted to divest investments identified as being directly and materially involved in fossil fuel activities.
And how does an analysis about managerial control account for the many Fellow committees that directly shape the College, or the current proposal to create an influential and representative College Council that will provide a forum to bring together our disparate specialties to share insights, collaborate and drive our broader agenda? The article's portrayal of reforms championed by the Board needs to be challenged. While a minority resisted the constitutional changes proposed in 2013, a two-thirds majority supported the proposals.
These facts are paid little attention because they get in the way of what appears to be an ideological critique of the College, its Board and its dedicated and professional staff.
The reality is that this College, far from embracing “corporatism”, is following the lead of member-based non-for-profit associations around the world and rethinking the way it is run — focusing on the needs of our members, especially those entering the profession, harnessing technology, reviewing our committees and services to ensure they remain relevant. We cannot work to a collective vision if we do not empower a democratically elected Board to set a strategy and implement it. Change upsets people, but the risk of not changing is that an organisation will become irrelevant because of pressing external challenges.
If the College were to be accused of pursuing any ideological theory or agenda it would be that of “empowerment”. Empowerment is how we engage our more than 22 000 members to train the next generation of physicians, nurture their careers and make a difference as leaders in our communities. That may not be as dramatic a story as a sinister corporate takeover of the College, but it's one that the College believes in for the benefit of our current and future Fellows and trainees, and for the communities they serve.
- 1. Komesaroff PA, Kerridge IA, Isaacs D, Brooks PM. The scourge of managerialism and the Royal Australasian College of Physicians. Med J Aust 2015; 202: 519-521.
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