Chairs Report for August

As I write this from Melbourne in Stage 4 lockdown, the nation is sobered by an ever rising death toll and sustained community transmission; it is punctuating the way we live and work as GPs.

Two Doctors are occupying Melbourne ICU beds One a 30+ yo emergency doctor, the other a 60+ yo GP. Another GP, aged in their 30’s has also been infected while working at a drive through testing clinic. We are all at risk on the front line against this virus; which should give pause to us all.

The Victorian and Federal Government’s have asked aged care workers not to work in more than one facility; this same standard in Victoria has been extended in Stage four lockdown restrictions to all settings and we support this move by the Andrews Government to keep everyone safe and ensure that our practices remain open and available to our patients at this critical time.

If you have not yet heard, there is now a requirement in Victoria to complete a COVID safe plan . Every operating business at this time is required to have a completed plan in place by 11.59 on Friday 7 August 2020.

Supervisors have raised concerns with GPSA that registrars are requesting annual leave to work in Covid 19 wards in private hospital, COVID testing sites and then returning to their training practice.

This directive at least in Victoria, at least provides a reasonable basis on which to not allow leave for this purpose and further for Victorian practices to issue an organisation wide policy requiring staff to refrain from working across more than one site. For some this will be logistically difficult, but necessary.

This issue will arise again before we are on top of this virus and it’s important that GPSA works with GPRA, RTOs, the Colleges and State and Federal Governments to develop recommendations and policies for this. To this end we have written o Minister Hunt seeking recommendations proportionate to the outbreak in Victoria specifically.

Initial discussions with my CEO Glen Wallace tell me that a clause can be written into an employee’s contract prohibiting work for another employer outside the practice. As few or no practices would have thought of this, we will have to rely on the goodwill of registrars and mutual agreements between registrar and practices to protect all those working in our General Practices.

Of critical importance at this time is ensuring that practices remain open to our patients.

This is my last report as Chair. The GPTA AGM is being held on 2/9. Dr Steve Holmes will be retiring from the Board at that meeting. A past Chair of GPSA and a passionate advocate for rural practice, Steve will be sadly missed from the Board. Well known for his wicked sense of humour, Steve’s insights and wise counsel (often delivered to me in late night phone calls) will also be sadly missed.

There are 2 elected positions available on our hard working, voluntary Board. I shall be standing again and I encourage any Supervisor who has an interest in Governance and Education to stand.

I would like to thank the Board for their excellent work over the past year.

GPSA recently submitted our report to the Department of Health, which gave me cause to reflect on how much our hard-working GPSA team, ably led by our CEO Glen Wallace achieves with a modest (but much appreciated) grant from the Federal Government.

There is a lot to be proud of. And we know that you agree, because not only has GPSA been able to maintain its membership, but membership growth sat above 10% this year – driven by the webinars and resources that we were able to commission as a result of the funding we gratefully receive from the Australian Government under the Australian General Practice Training Program.

Finally, a big thanks to all the GP Supervisors around Australia who are training the next generation of GPs.

Gerard Connors
Chair GPSA