General Practice Registrars Australia (GPRA) is calling on the Royal Australian College of General Practitioners (RACGP) to respond quickly and compassionately to all Western Australia (WA) exam candidates unable to sit the written exams due to the current COVID-19 lockdown in metropolitan Perth and the Peel and South West regions.
GPRA is aware of 70 exam candidates in WA who will potentially be unable to sit the upcoming 5 February KFP exam. The RACGP has informed these affected candidates that they will not be able to sit the KFP exam until the July 2021.2 exam cycle, but they can sit the 2021.1 Remote Clinical Exam (RCE) in July, provided they have passed the Applied Knowledge Test (AKT). However, if the lockdown continues beyond this Friday, these candidates will also miss the opportunity to sit the AKT exam on 6 February. The RACGP has not addressed this potential eventuality.
“An additional five-month delay will be unbearable for many trainees. There will be negative professional, personal and financial effects on trainees, especially International Medical Graduates (IMGs) whose visa status might be dependent on passing this exam,” says GPRA President Dr Antony Bolton.
“The RACGP’s communication to affected candidates has, so far, been tardy and inadequate. It is unacceptable for candidates to first hear about possible exam cancellations by word-of-mouth and through social media. This has not gone down at all well with this cohort of trainees who are already dissatisfied with their College due to its handling of the cancelled AKT and KFP exams in 2020. The RACGP must immediately work on restoring trust and confidence—providing individual phone support and follow up for each of these candidates will be a gesture of goodwill, as well as help communicate the College’s plans for those candidates affected by the lockdown and for the candidates to ask any questions,” Dr Bolton says.
“Those unable to sit the exams due to the WA lockdown need to be offered another opportunity before July 2021. We know this is possible as the College has just recently provided an alternative exam in response to the failed online AKT and KFP exams. Trainees should not be disadvantaged because of the State they live in.”
“What is disappointing is that these circumstances were not unforeseeable. We are now 12 months into a global pandemic, and this will continue to be an ongoing national issue well into 2021. As new coronavirus cases and lockdowns in response are sudden and unpredictable, and could arise in any state during any of the exams in 2021, GPRA calls on the College to have consistent and effective contingency plans in place for these circumstances.”
“This uncertainty is very difficult for trainees who have been studying and preparing for these high-stakes exams for many months. A continued lack of communication, delays in responding and lack of adequate contingency plans are eroding trust and confidence in the College. The RACGP must immediately address these ongoing issues otherwise risk the disenfranchisement of an entire cohort of future GPs.”
“Lastly, GPRA is acutely aware of the ongoing heightened levels of anxiety for all trainees as the pandemic continues. Trainees are encouraged to seek support, particularly through their Registrar Liaison Officer (RLO) and Regional Training Organisation (RTO) or through the Doctor’s Health Service in their State,” Dr Bolton says.