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News, Editorial

EDITORIAL: Insight welcomes OA’s newfound willingness for transparency

10/09/2019
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Following Insight’s call for Optometry Australia to practice greater transparency by annually publishing its actual membership figure, CEO Ms Lyn Brodie issued a statement to members revealing she would soon have some “good news”.

In an editorial titled “Now is the time for Optometry Australia to be transparent” Insight called on the peak industry body to behave as other health-related organisations have and place its actual paid membership number on the public record, rather than keeping it confidential.

As previously reported, Brodie and OA president Mr Darrell Baker have continually declined to reveal the organisation’s membership figure.

This has left OA as the only association of 15 similar organisations contacted by Insight to not publically release this information. Other ophthalmic bodies such as RANZCO, Orthoptics Australia, the Australian Society of Ophthalmologists and the country’s dispensing associations all freely provided their membership numbers - see chart below. 

Ms Lyn Brodie
Ms Lyn Brodie
“There is some good news. Right around the country your state organisations are finalising member renewals. And next week we will bring you all the details.”
Lyn Brodie, 28 August 2019

OA instead asks that people estimate its membership, based on a percentage of optometrists registered with the Optometry Board of Australia, while keeping the true number confidential.

More importantly, Baker would not confirm to Insight if the number would be made available to an OA member upon request.

In response to an Insight article, Brodie issued a statement on 28 August telling members: “There is some good news. Right around the country your state organisations are finalising member renewals.

“As I sit here today we represent more registered optometrists than we did 12 months ago. The percentage of optometrists that we represent is greater than it was a year ago.”

She said the information would be made available “next week”.

While this latest statement appears to be an about-face on her previous claims that “even our members would find a number meaningless”, the transparency should be welcomed.

What remains unknown is whether OA will continue to obscure its membership number behind a percentage-based estimate.

Insight has advocated for Brodie and Baker to resume transparency by publishing the data as part of OA’s annual report to members, thereby avoiding any appearance of secrecy. This practice was last undertaken in 2014.

Brodie’s recent claim that the peak industry body represents more optometrists this year is not unexpected, given the increasing number of new practitioners entering the workforce.

This publication has never questioned an actual number because the figure is not on the public record. Our reporting has concerned one issue, and one issue only – why the lack of transparency?

If, as Brodie claims, there is “good news” on membership numbers, then the OA board should reverse its practice of keeping it a secret; publish the number each year and make it freely available upon request, especially to its own members.

If all other health-related not-for-profit associations willingly provide their information, surely OA can too? Members have a right to know this important information.

Insight looks forward to reporting the “good news” – assuming an actual number is made available – and for the current secrecy to end.

After all, OA’s obfuscation and some of its recent decisions have embarrassed both itself and the profession, including Baker’s failed attempt to discredit Insight’s investigation and reporting by lodging a complaint with the MEAA’s National Ethics Committee.

The Committee unanimously dismissed Baker’s allegations, saying the reporting “is accurate in saying that OA has not revealed its actual membership numbers – only a percentage and a calculation based on that percentage which is not the actual membership number”. 

It also concluded that the journalist’s correspondence was professional and not aggressive or intimidating. “He clearly, and firmly but politely, made his points about the fact that OA had not provided its actual membership numbers, which other like organisations have,” the ruling read.

 

Ophthalmic & Health Organisations' MembershipNumber
RANZCO (excludes associates)1,497
Australian Society of Ophthalmologists550
Cornea and Contact Lens Society of Australia616
Orthoptics Australia563
Optometry Australia (OA)Classified
Dispensing Opticians’ Association (NSW/VIC)330
Australian Dental Association15,367
Australian Medical Association44,970
Australian Osteopathy Association3,030
Australian Physiotherapy Association25,625
Australian Podiatry Association2,678
Australian Psychology Association24,059
Chiropractors Association of Australia3,290
Occupational Therapy Australia6,867
Australian College of General Practitioners39,316

Of the above 15 health related not-for-profit organisations contacted, only OA
refuses to divulge or place its membership number on the public record.

Chart first published 31 May, 2019
 

 

More reading:

Optometry Australia membership "confidential" - 31 May, 2019
Optometry Australia holds firm on "confidential" membership number - 31 July, 2019
OA complaint dismissed: committee rules in favour of Insight - 23 August, 2019
Now is the time for Optometry Australia to be transparent - 28 August, 2019
 





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