The Turnbull Government has rejected a call from the Australian Medical Association to create a nation-wide Centre for Disease Control, to help prepare for and respond to outbreaks of infectious diseases.
AMA President Dr Michael Gannon on Wednesday released a new position statement calling for such a centre to be established in Australia, similar to centres that exist in the United States and Europe.
Dr Gannon said Australia was the only nation in the OECD that did not have "an established national authority delivering scientific research and leadership in communicable disease control".
"There are emerging problems of controlling communicable diseases within Australia's borders, and a CDC would provide a national focus on current and emerging communicable disease threats.
Dr Gannon said the current system, relied on "disjointed state and Commonwealth structures, informal networks and collaborations, and the goodwill of public health and infectious disease physicians".
"If we are to be a serious force in combating disease in our region, we need a CDC," he said.
The nation's Chief Medical Officer, Professor Brendan Murphy said that the government was aware of the importance of having a robust public health system to prepare for and respond to such outbreaks.
But he said it was the department's view that the current arrangements were effective and "establishing a CDC would not add anything material to Australia's capacity to effectively respond to national communicable disease outbreaks".
"Public health stakeholders like the AMA are included in health emergency arrangements, a prime example was the H1N1 Influenza Pandemic where medical organisations, including the AMA, were vitally involved in the national health response," Prof Murphy said.
Prof Murphy said there were already "established and well-practiced" coordinating mechanisms, led by the Australian Health Protection Principal Committee (AHPPC), its five standing committees, as well as several Centres of Research Excellence focussed on infectious diseases.
He said responses to such outbreaks was run by the national Office of Health Protection, which in recent times had developed public health measures for Ebola, MERS-CoV and Zika virus.
The AMA's proposal has previously been backed by a number of different health organisations and infectious disease experts, and a 2013 Senate committee recommended the government explore the potential for creating a CDC in Australia.
After that inquiry, the COAG in 2014 instead opted for a National Framework Communicable Disease Control, backed by the AHPPC and the Communicable Diseases Network Australia.
Prof Murphy said that framework aimed to guide "whole of system actions" to ensure "stewardship of the communicable disease control system" and the department was working to "progress" an implementation plan for that framework.
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