President’s Blog: Term end for Mark (Two) | AMA (WA)


Mark McGowan Resignation Press Conference 2023_blog

President’s Blog: Term end for Mark (Two)

Friday June 2, 2023

Dr Mark Duncan-Smith, AMA (WA) President

This is my last president’s blog before my term as AMA (WA) President ends. If you’d asked me if I’d be seeing off the State’s Premier just a smidge before that, I would have been as incredulous as the next person. 

It goes to show that life doesn’t run in a straight line for any of us. Just because you’ve found yourself with a staggering parliamentary majority that’s given you almost total political authority, in the end, your personal fortunes come down to your own life circumstances. 

I was asked this week to comment on Mark McGowan’s time in office for the national AM program on the ABC. 

The report noted that although WA has a huge budget surplus thanks to royalties from booming commodity prices, the State’s next premier will also be dealing with a strained health system and troubled juvenile detention system.  

“Mark McGowan’s decision to quit the State’s top job was a shock. He says his time was exhausting and relentless. He didn’t want to deal with conflict anymore,” the report said.  

I told the reporter that  the pandemic and WA’s strict border controls defined Mark McGowan’s time in office.  

“He will be remembered as… the Premier that got this State through COVID and to the point where we did better than pretty well any other state in Australia, or in that case for the world as far as COVID goes.” 

 I told AM the AMA (WA) hopes that his replacement keeps trying to fix the State’s hospital capacity.  

“We started the pandemic with the lowest number of beds per head of population. The McGowan Government has gone a long way to increase that bed stock now and they’ve committed to 600 new beds over and above what they’ve already done. So we… want to see that to be maintained by the new leader, and also keep an idea on the horizon of the demands of our medical system over the next 5-10 years.” 

When making his shock announcement, the Premier emphasised the exhausting toll the COVID-19 crisis had taken on him, with many sleepless nights. 

AMA (WA) Immediate Past President Dr Andrew Miller had to deal with the Premier at the height of the pandemic and reflected as considerately as ever when interviewed by The West Australian. 

“He revealed himself to be a person who cared and was prepared to take big risks to protect the community,” Dr Miller said. 

For those two years, West Australians saw the Premier on pretty much a daily basis. 

“It was because of COVID, the population got to know him, because it was a really unusual situation of seeing the Premier every day. 

“In those circumstances, you can’t hide, you can’t put on a false front. People got to see his humour and his vulnerable side. And they really responded to that. 

“(And because of the uniqueness of the situation) we’ll never get to know a leader as well as we did him.” 

Of course, in an extraordinary week, we’ve seen Roger Cook emerge as Premier elect, with formalities expected to be signed off next week. 

He’s well known to the AMA (WA) as the former health minister, and is the son of an AMA (WA) Life Member, Dr Hugh Cook.  

His grandfather, Dr Leigh Cook, was President of the WA Branch of the British Medical Association in 1956. 

The new AMA (WA) President gets the opportunity to press the reset button with the Cook Government. Interesting times, with Cook’s main challenger being the current Health Minister, Amber-Jade Sanderson. 

I’ve got a few more things to say about my two years as president of this wonderful Association in the June Medicus edition. In the meantime, the momentous events of the last week, as for the rest of the population, require a bit of time and distance to comprehend. 

I’d like to thank you for the opportunity to share my thoughts, achievements and frustrations over this time in this forum. It’s been a privilege. I wish my successor all the very best in their endeavours. Let’s see what tomorrow brings. Who really knows? But the AMA (WA) will be there, working in the interests of our members, all doctors and the WA community.