This week, the federal election campaign again focused attention on rural health with the Liberal-Nationals Coalition pledging additional funding to increase the number of GPs working in rural and regional areas.
While the focus on the health of rural and remote communities and funding is very welcome, we remain concerned that the structural reforms that have increasingly and inappropriately become the focus of the transition to College-led training will see AGPT registrars worse off in all locations. It is essential that GP trainees are offered quality, safe training placements across rural and remote Australia, as well as urban and regional locations.
Successful applications for GP training have been falling for years. While increasing the number of medical students and junior doctors is important for Australia’s medical workforce pipeline, persuading more junior doctors to apply for community GP training and appropriately supporting and remunerating them is the systemic issue ALL political parties need to work with the primary care sector to address.
It is well known that the prospect of losing core employment entitlements such as access to parental leave in order to train as a GP is a major barrier for many junior doctors. The continued ‘freeze’ on Medicare and lack of funding innovation for GP practices are also major barriers to choosing a career as a rural based GP. A whole-of-system reform approach is clearly needed.
This week’s funding announcements also include a pledge to expand the single employer model (SEM) trial – even though the current NSW trial is yet to be evaluated. At this stage of the SEM trial, which is just over a year old, it is unclear if hospital networks would be best placed to manage community based training placements and employment conditions in GP practices in the future. GPRA’s position is that a full evaluation is needed before any Government policy directions can be made touting the SEM as a key employment framework in the Australian GP Training system.
GPRA continues to argue that the right workplace arrangements and a holistic value proposition are needed to attract more doctors to train in rural and regional areas and to encourage more of you to stay in these communities.
We all know it’s about more than targets and the number of placements – it’s also about investing in the capacity of, and infrastructure for, GP practices to offer quality and safe training placements to registrars so they can deliver quality health care to communities.
I look forward to hearing from you. Thank you for your support.
Dr Antony Bolton