In a direct communique to Members of the Queensland United Firefighters Union (UFU) this week, General Secretary John Oliver explained his personal decision to boycott the scheme.
Although starting his message encouraging every member to make their own decision, Mr Oliver’s explanation about why he has chosen to opt out paints a fairly concerning picture.
Understandably perhaps as a unionist, the General Secretary highlights his concerns about who might be able to obtain what he describes as “your entire medical history” and then narrows his concerns to the employment sphere.
“If you are injured or ill, and cannot work, and your employer has a medical authority to discuss or access copies of your medical information, under the new system any practitioner will be able to access your entire medical history, including any practitioner that may be providing advice to your employer.
This is potentially going to become the default during a return to work assessment process via an independent medical examiner. And it’s also likely that your employer will ask your treating medical practitioner to discuss or provide copies of your records should they have a medical authority and the relevant medical practitioner considers the requested information to be relevant to the circumstances.“
Mr Oliver then acknowledged the potential benefits of the initiative but explained that he “wanted to ensure you were aware of any potential employment related risks associated with the ‘My Health Record’ and could factor that into your decision about whether or not to opt out.”
The Association of Volunteer Bush Fire Brigades (AVBFB) isn’t a union. While a lot of what we do in supporting and advocating for the rights of our members is work of a very similar type to that of the UFU, our focus is always on policy and practise that directly impacts on the outcomes of what our incredible volunteers do. By the very nature of a union, this philosophy is vastly different to their necessary focus on the process that their members undertake. To put it another way, the UFU advocates for the safety and benefits of individual firefighters and the AVBFB advocates for the safety and value to the communities in which our volunteer firefighters and their families live.
That’s not to say career members of the UFU don’t also live in the community they serve, but it is often very clear to us when we are in the same room as our UFU-aligned counterparts and talking policy, we are more like a football and basketball team than two teams “competing” in one sport.
Although there will be some who undoubtedly try to allege some sort of “agenda” is being presented here, we thought it was important to share the article as an example of the modus operandi of the UFU and explain that the AVBFB is very clear that the UFU is not a competitor or any kind of threat. They are paid by their members – career firefighters – to lobby and provide advice for issues that relate to their personal wellbeing and we are about supporting our amazing volunteers in their goal of providing a valuable return to their whole community.
With regard to the Government’s “My Health” initiative, as health is a very personal issue for us all, the AVBFB makes no recommendation about your choices, but humbly suggests you visit the Government’s website (https://www.myhealthrecord.gov.au/) or contact your local Federal Member of Parliament for more information.