The health sector has united to pay tribute to the late Dr Harry Nespolon who has passed away after a short battle with cancer.
The president of the Royal Australian College of General Practitioners passed away following a nine-month battle with pancreatic cancer. He was 57.
Dr Nespolon was elected RACGP president in July 2018.
RACGP board chair Christine Nixon said despite his deteriorating health Dr Nespolon was able to achieve so much.
“The RACGP Board is in awe of everything Harry has been able to achieve, particularly over the last seven months. The RACGP and general practice was a huge part of his life and he gave so much of himself to advocating for the central role of general practice to the health of Australians.”
Health minister Greg Hunt led the tributes.
"On behalf of the Australian Government, I extend my deepest condolences to the family, friends and colleagues of Dr Harry Nespolon, who passed away on Sunday night," he said.
"As President of the Royal Australian College of General Practitioners for the past two years, Dr Nespolon worked very closely with myself and the Government.
"He was a passionate but also reasoned advocate for GPs and, above all, for their patients— the Australian people.
"His tenure as president coincided with a period of reform and then, of emergency—both the bushfire emergency and more recently the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic."
AMA president Dr Tony Bartone, who is also a member of the RACGP, said Dr Nespolon would be sorely missed across general practice.
“I’ve worked alongside Harry in advocacy for General Practice, for the medical profession, and our patients for years,” said Dr Bartone.
“Harry was a great defender of General Practice. He stood up for doctors. He and I spent many hours working with government officials to improve our health care system for the better. He simply was passionate about his patients and their care.
“Even during the final stages of his illness, Harry kept working full pace on behalf of General Practitioners.
“Indeed; in the last few months, my interactions with Harry augmented significantly in proportion to the enormous policy settings in discussion around General Practice. He always was present.
“Harry will be sorely missed, and I offer the condolences of all at the AMA to the Nespolon family and our RACGP colleagues,” Dr Bartone said.
Medicines Australia said Dr Nespolon leaves a tremendous legacy of passion and integrity.
It said, "Dr Nespolon has made an immense contribution to Medicines Australia and to the industry. He has been a valuable member of the Medicines Australia Code of Conduct Committee for over 15 years. Dr Nespolon’s unfailing determination to uphold ethical behaviour, along with his ability to make rational decisions, quickly made him an integral part of the Committee."
The national president of the Pharmacy Guild of Australia, George Tambassis, expressed his sorrow at the death of Dr Nespolon.
Mr Tambassis said, “He was unflinching in his determination to get the best outcomes for members of his organisation, and through them the best possible results for patients across Australia.
“He would not take a backward step when prosecuting a position that he felt was in the best interests of all Australians and the general practitioners he represented, but he did so with courtesy and respect."
Pharmaceutical Society of Australia (PSA) national president associate professor Chris Freeman said, “Harry was a strong advocate for GPs and their profession and despite battling deteriorating health in recent months he was still able to provide strong leadership and achieve a great deal during the COVID-19 pandemic and will no doubt leave an enduring legacy.
“On behalf of PSA, I would like to pass on my deepest condolences to his family, friends and many colleagues.”