By Dr Melanie Smith, GPRA Registrar Advisor
This is a stressful time for everyone in general practice—particularly for GP trainees.
With a growing number of concerns raised by GPRA members about exams, training time, placements, contracts and leave, GPRA has also felt the impact.
As we respond to issues related to the current pandemic situation from our members, we are beginning to see common issues and concerns. As such, we have provided a list below for your reference.
Remember, as well as our dedicated COVID-19 FAQs, our website has an ever-increasing bank of general FAQs to help answer you training and employment questions.
As always, feel free to contact GPRA with your questions or concerns.
Don’t forget about some of the other useful resources available:
AGPT Registrars in community general practice
As per NTCER, paid sick/personal/carers leave can be taken in advance.
Due to a recent Federal Court ruling on sick leave (https://www.fairwork.gov.au/about-us/news-and-media-releases/website-news/carer-s-leave) part-time registrars also actually have access to the same amount of sick leave as a full-time registrar.
This means you have five days available (in advance) for each six month term.
This supersedes previous NTCER provisions regarding pro-rata accrual of sick leave.
Sick leave is also taken in days rather than hours. You can use this leave if you become unwell OR if you are required to self-isolate due to exposure to COVID-19 and are unable to work.
RVTS, PEP, GPE, and Independent Pathway trainees
Sick leave entitlements (both paid and unpaid) will be dependent on the structure of your contract either as an employee or a sole trader.
Hours of employment
Many general practices are currently experiencing a significant drop in patient presentations (and revenue) that has led to some registrars being asked to reduce their hours of work. Some registrars have even had their employment terminated.
In this current crisis significant compromise is required from the whole community; there is no easy or right way to manage these situations.
If you have reduced your hours of work, or had your employment terminated, please tell your RTO and your RLO.
Hopefully, the dip in patient numbers is temporary and soon things will get back to normal.
In the meantime, GPRA is advocating for registrars to be able to continue their training progression with access to alternative placement options and flexibility around clinical hours requirements for training progression.
We are available to help advise you on any contractual issues or changes in working conditions.
Access to Telehealth, particularly from home
GPRA is aware that general practices across the country have taken up telehealth consulting to different degrees.
Some GPs-in-training would like to perform telehealth consultations either in their practice or from home, but have not been able to arrange this set-up.
Some practices will need some extra support to implement the huge change in processes and infrastructure needed for telehealth.
There are many great resources also available via ACRRM, RACGP, RTOs and GP Supervisors Australia.
This can be an opportunity for trainees to provide support and leadership in this transition by helping their practices access these resources.
If you need assistance to access telehealth consulting, please contact your RTO and/or GPRA.
Personal Protective Equipment (PPE)
GPs in training should NOT see, treat, or carry out procedures on suspected or confirmed cases of COVID-19 if they do not have the correct PPE equipment (as per local guidelines).
This relies on good triaging protocols by the practice to ensure these patients are identified before they enter the practice.
If your practice is unable to provide you with adequate PPE for the type of work you are performing:
- Discuss with your practice how they may acquire appropriate PPE (for example, a discussion with local Primary Health Network).
- Discuss with your practice suitable ways of triaging patients to ensure no staff members or other patients are placed at risk.
- If a reasonable agreement cannot be made with the practice around safe practicing then discuss with your RTO and/or GPRA immediately.
Remember to stay in touch
For AGPT registrars and PEP participants, please make sure you maintain close communication with your RTO and/or Registrar Liaison Officer (RLO).
This is especially important if you are having difficulties in training regarding leave, patient numbers, or not feeling safe and supported in your placement.
You are also able to get in touch with GPRA for further support and advice and we are happy to help you navigate these uncharted waters.