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Report from the Chair

Professor Villis Marshall AC

“Together with our healthcare partners, the Commission has contributed to a strong national response to the COVID‑19 pandemic.”

The past year has been an exceptional one for the Australian healthcare system, requiring adaptability and decisive leadership. Together with our healthcare partners, the Commission has contributed to a strong national response to the COVID‑19 pandemic.

Many of the Commission’s staff have redirected their focus and worked tirelessly to support our healthcare providers in responding rapidly – and safely – to the emerging public health emergency. In March 2020, the Prime Minister called on the Australian Public Service to assist with the response. Some of the Commission’s teams have been redeployed and made valuable contributions in the areas of close contact tracing, investigations, infection prevention and control, and national and state planning to minimise the impact of the pandemic.

In addition, the Commission has continued with key business activities, focusing on priority areas for improving the quality and safety of health care in Australia.

This year, I was extremely proud to be present at the launch of the Australian Charter of Healthcare Rights. Developed in partnership with consumers, this is an incredibly important piece of work to support awareness and understanding of consumer rights. Empowering consumers to participate in their care, and to advocate for themselves and others is essential for improving health care, and I would like to thank staff and consumers who contributed to these valuable resources.

Ensuring safety in the digital delivery of health services is a priority, as we use telehealth and digital communication platforms more than ever. The timely work of the Commission in developing national standards for digital mental health services, and a My Health Record guide for emergency department clinicians, will continue to be pertinent post pandemic. The Commission has also developed new clinical care standards for several areas, including cataract, peripheral intravenous catheters and third and fourth degree perineal tears.

There are many more achievements, some of which are included in these pages. Meaningful collaboration continues to be central to our work. In presenting the 2019–20 annual report, I would like to thank our healthcare partners, including the Australian Government, states and territories, the private sector, clinicians and, of course, consumers.

I extend my thanks to Minister Greg Hunt for his continuing leadership and support, and the members of the Commission’s Board for their advice and guidance over the past year. In particular, I would like to acknowledge the inspiring leadership of Professor John Walsh AM as Board member since July 2016. John has been an exceptional advocate for better care, support and access to services, particularly for those with disability. As one of Australia’s leading actuaries, he has been instrumental in system and policy change in Australia, helping to shape Australia’s first national scheme for people with disability, the National Disability Insurance Scheme. While John’s regular contributions will be greatly missed by the Board, he continues to inspire each of us to keep the consumer and their experience at the heart of all we do.

Finally, on behalf of the Board, I would like to express my gratitude to the executive team and staff of the Commission – you have responded to a challenging year with astute leadership, and great commitment and compassion.