Australian Diabetes Society proposes to ‘unify’ with Diabetes Australia – but it’s not a merger

Two major Australian diabetes professional organisations are working towards unification with a national body  – Diabetes Australia – which they believe will result in more funding and political power for members.

The Australian Diabetes Society (ADS) and Australian Diabetes Educators Association (ADEA), are proposing to align their operations with patient advocacy and lobby group Diabetes Australia.

According to an FAQ, the proposed unification is not a merger, but will see the ADS and ADEA become independent subsidiaries with DA as the parent ‘umbrella’ organisation. The professional groups will retain their name, activities, funding sources and organisational structures, but align their overall strategies with those of Diabetes Australia on policy, advocacy and collaboration.

“We think that in terms of advocacy for diabetes generally, a unified front with the consumer group will do more for people with diabetes and our members than us being separate organisations,” says ADS president Associate Professor Stephen Stranks, an endocrinologist in Adelaide.

“We can maintain our essential autonomy in the way we operate internally, so we can maintain our own board, our own structure and our own finances, but within the broader organisation which is more likely to have influence in terms of advocacy for diabetes advocacy and particularly for our area of diabetes research.”

ADS members have so far reacted positively about the proposal, and Associate Professor Stranks hopes to put it to a vote by members in August, following a live Q&A session for members hosted by CEO Sof Andrikopoulos, and the CEO of the ADEA, Susan Davidson.

He says the ADS and ADEA will retain control over their budgets within the wider organisation, and there is an expectation they might receive more funds from the Diabetes Australia-administered National Diabetes Services Scheme (NDSS).

Coordinating messages and campaigns with Diabetes Australia will also help bring about changes in MBS items, which Associate Professor Stranks says no longer fully compensate medical professionals for the additional time and complexity created by rising numbers of patients with Type 1 diabetes, and by the introduction of new data-collecting technologies.

The unification move follows changes in the constitution of Diabetes Australia to allow state-based groups Diabetes NSW & ACT and Diabetes Queensland to unify with the national group.

ADEA view

If ADS and ADEA do choose to unify with the consumer group, they will have two dedicated seats on a new eight-person independent board, ADEA’s CEO  Susan Davidson told a webinar on the proposal this week.

A new clinician-led advisory group will also be set up consisting of five ADS and five ADEA members to inform the new Diabetes Australia board.

“As a unified organisation our influence and impact will be greater than the individual organisations’ impact,” she said.

The webinar highlighted clinician concerns with risks around joining with a larger, better funded organisation, particularly the potential issues of where health professional and patient interest clash.

Associate Professor Stranks said there were already instances where clinician and patient interests conflict, and the unification process would create a pathway to discuss and resolve these.

In its FAQ, the ADS said in a unification the parent organisation Diabetes Australia would have a legal responsibility to act in the best interest of its subsidiaries, and subsidiaries would have a legal responsibility to act in the best interest of their ‘parent’ organisation.

“If ADS was to unify it would not be merged into Diabetes Australia’s operations, but would become a subsidiary of Diabetes Australia … this means that there would be much stronger integration of policy and advocacy activities, as well as management and working arrangements,” it said.

Unification would mean less duplication and more consistency across diabetes organisations, as well as support from Diabetes Australia in operational areas such as finance and human resources, according to ADS.

“There is the potential for significant efficiencies and cost savings for ADS e.g. better bargaining power for contracts, access to shared and better IT systems and website platforms than the individual organisations can afford. This means more funds for member services,” it said.

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