Steering primary health care towards an integrated, equitable system during the COVID19 crisis

Publication date
Monday, 12 Oct 2020
Michael Kidd, primary health care reforms
Michael Kidd, primary health care reforms

Before taking up a joint appointment as Professor, Primary Care Reform with the Australian National University (ANU) Medical School, and Principal Medical Advisor/Deputy Chief Medical Officer with the Australian Government Department of Health, in March 2020, Professor Michael Kidd had been living and working in Toronto, Canada.

“The shadow of SARS, the deadly virus that occurred in 2002/2003, is still long in Toronto. While there, I learned lots about the importance of preparation in primary health care during a pandemic.” 

His time as Chair of the University of Toronto, Department of Family and Community Medicine - a World Health Organisation Collaborating Centre, along with his many years of experience as a general practitioner, academic, and numerous leadership roles on various boards and government committees, has served Professor Kidd well for his current roles.

 “The idea of the joint position is to allow greater integration between the Department of Health and the contributions of academics and students from ANU. This integration will result in health policy and program development informed by national and international evidence, while utilising the experience of seasoned clinicians to support decision making.

“I’m not aware of any other role that exists like this in health system reform but I hope it will be the first of further appointments of this type, bringing ANU experts into the decision making within the Department of Health.”

The continuing COVID crisis has seen Professor Kidd devote his time primarily to his work as Deputy Chief Medical Officer over the past few months. But he remains engaged with ANU, working closely especially with ANU Medical School’s Sally Hall, and Research School of Population Health’s Dr Jane Desborough who have been conducting action research of the development and rollout of the nation’s primary care COVID-19 response.

“Both Jane and Sally have been an invaluable support including through doing rapid reviews of the literature to provide an evidence base to support important policy issues that have needed to be tackled.”

Professor Kidd’s work with the Government’s 10-year Primary Health Care Reform Strategy, is still in the early stages but some components have already been implemented as part of the COVID-19 primary care response.

Working with key stakeholders across the country and policy makers within the Department of Health, Professor Kidd supported the development of plans for Australia’s whole of population telehealth program, rolling it out swiftly to meet community needs as the pandemic impacted Australia. The program is one of the most profound changes to the delivery of Medicare funded health services in Australia since the establishment of Medicare.

“It has been an incredibly rapid change that my general practitioner colleagues around the country have had to adopt. They have implemented quickly, seamlessly and selflessly to support the health and wellbeing of the people of our country.”

Professor Kidd will continue in his joint role for the next 5 years where he will bring his wealth of experience to drive reforms within the primary health care system to make it more integrated, efficient and equitable.

“It’s a privilege to be in this role at this point in time in our nation’s history. A sense of incredible responsibility is felt by everyone who sits around the table to make decisions and provide health advice on the various facets of COVID-19 and the reforms we are working towards. It’s a critical task we’re involved with, and one we take very seriously.”