President’s Update – April 2020

GPRA President - Dr Sama Balasubramanian

By Dr Sama Balasubramanian

Hope you and your loved ones are staying safe during these unprecedented times. Thank you for your hard work and dedication in providing frontline care to our communities.

The impact of uncertainty has been felt by you in different domains: your employment arrangements, your consultations and interactions with patients, your preparation for examinations and your training progression.

I wanted to update you on some of the ways GPRA is working for you to help manage and mitigate this uncertainty and support your wellbeing, as we all get through this together.

What GPRA is doing for GP trainees:

  • advocating for AGPT policy change
  • advocating for adequate Personal Protective Equipment (PPE)
  • advocating for edpediated COVID-19 testing for healthcare workers
  • creating new resources for GP trainees
  • fighting hard for further sick leave provisions as well as the provision of paid quarantine leave for trainees that have to take time off for self-isolation.

Advocating for AGPT policy change

We have been engaging with the Department of Health, RACGP, ACRRM, GPSA, the RTOs, and the AMA through various forums. We have advocated for trainee wellbeing to be a specific focus in decision making, such as the change in Category 2 leave to exclude this from the training time cap when this leave has to be taken due to COVID-19. 

As these AGPT policies were handed over to the colleges on 31 March, we will be working with them to advocate for better policies that are designed with trainee wellbeing in mind, and to ensure that the application of these policies, particularly in relation to the impact of COVID-19 on training, is not hamstrung in college or RTO administrative processes.

Advocating for adequate Personal Protective Equipment (PPE)

Over the last couple of weeks I have also been engaged in discussions with the Department of Health and other stakeholders about your safety, particularly with regards to adequate Personal Protective Equipment (PPE). We are pleased that our recent input has been heard, with the Principal Medical Advisor, Professor Michael Kidd conforming that if you do not have adequate and appropriate PPE for a particular clinical situation, then you should refer onwards to a facility with appropriate resourcing.

Expediting COVID-19 testing for healthcare workers

Your safety as the frontline of our healthcare response to COVID19 is paramount. We have also been calling on the Government to expedite COVID-19 testing for GP trainees and all frontline healthcare workers—having trainees in self-isolation for days whislt awaiting test results is unacceptable.

New resources for GP trainees

This week GPRA ran our webinar “Telehealth consults for GP trainees”, which has been uploaded to the GPRA website for everyone to access. We are working on another webinar to help you get the most out of clinical supervision and work with your supervisors using telehealth. This is an area where many GP trainees are in need of support and guidance.

We are also pleased to advise that JCU GP Training have made their telehealth resources for GP training open access. The resources include an excellent guide, supervision plan template and links to articles and webinars.

Please also access the resources provided by ACRRM and the RACGP (in particular, the Doctors-In-Training faculty website page) to keep up to date with any questions you have about training. I believe that the more resources are available to guide and empower you in your clinical rotations, the better we can all manage uncertainty together.

Looking after yourself

Trainees have spoken to us about the impact that this pandemic has had on their wellbeing. Please access resources such as the RACGP GP Support program and RTO-specific supports. Don’t forget about LifeLine, Beyond Blue and the Black Dog Institute. Reach out to us as well. GPRA is here to support you. We are a community of practice.

The uncertainty around the pandemic has exacerbated many issues that we have advocated to fix for a long time. We will fight hard for further sick leave provisions as well as the provision of paid quarantine leave for trainees that have to take time off for self-isolation. The inequity in these employment conditions in comparison to hospital registrars is an ongoing concern.

Once again, thank you for your hard work as the frontline of our healthcare response to this pandemic. I believe that we can overcome and manage uncertainty by working together. Please take care of yourselves.

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