AMA rejects foot doctor push

Published: 2011-05-11 10:36:45
Author: Adam Cresswell

  THE peak doctors' organisation is resisting a push to allow non-medically trained podiatric surgeons to operate on feet, challenging their ability to provide quality care and claiming their very titles may mislead patients.

The Australian Medical Association has also accused the medical profession's new national regulator of failing to support doctors by opposing a bid to create new national standards for podiatric surgeons.

AMA vice-president Steve Hambleton said he was unhappy with the Podiatry Board of Australia, which has commissioned the Australia and New Zealand Podiatry Accreditation Council to develop standards and processes for podiatric surgery training.

Dr Hambleton said although podiatric surgeons existed, there had until recently been only one in Australia, and plans to expand the number were troubling.

He claimed podiatric surgeons in Australia were trained to a much lower standard than in the US, where the standard approximated that of medical graduates, and patients might be disadvantaged.

He claimed patients could be misled into believing a podiatric surgeon was a medically trained doctor, and podiatrists and podiatric surgeons lacked the wider knowledge that could prove vital for some patients. Many patients could have simultaneous medical conditions that podiatrists would be ill-equipped to handle.

"Podiatric surgeons seem to be creeping higher and higher up the leg," Dr Hambleton said. "We are very disappointed that the Medical Board of Australia isn't stepping up to the plate."

Perth podiatrist Andrew Schox, president of the Australasian Podiatry Council, said that, contrary to the AMA's claims, podiatric surgeons trained for a similar amount of time to orthopedic surgeons before qualifying, by which time they would have done an average of 3000 foot operations.

Mr Schox rejected the claim that patients with other health problems might suffer, saying operations were done in consultation with a patient's GP or specialist.

He rejected the AMA's claim patients might be misled by the term "podiatric surgeon", saying "doctor" was a courtesy title used by vets and dentists as well as doctors.