Chair’s Report June 2020

2020 will be reflected upon through many lenses for years to come. Through a positive lense COVID 19 has grounded supervisors, registrars and patients with pragmatic solutions to complex problems. It has brought into focus what really matters… and it’s been pretty good for the darker humour meme train too.

We have seen a rapid succession of good health policy from State and Federal  Government. From respiratory clinics, expanded mental health availability for patients, telehealth MBS Item numbers and the lifting of telehealth bulk billing restrictions – we hope much of what has been implemented remains. PPE stockpiles being replenished and the national disaster plans including more than just face masks would be a bonus too. It has driven industry led solutions like ACRRM and RDAA offering an assured supply of PPE nationally and hand sanitiser availability secured by the Practice Manager Network. The primary care industry really is capable and nimble.

It has also been an interesting time for registrars and their supervisors. Supervisors have observed “Cream rises during a crisis”. Meaning many supervisors are seeing some registrars emerge as a great asset during the crisis. These registrar’s practices will likely look to retain them at the end of their training.

What is making our registrars a great asset that sets them apart from their peers? Well for one, a great registrar is a great employee. Someone who is reliable and steady – even in a crisis.

Our registrar’s ability to acknowledge the change in environment and orientate themselves to the ‘we’ has been a gift for some practices. These registrars are able to understand and observe the massive impact COVID has had on the business. They understand reduced presentations affects all clinicians and why they personally might struggle to fill their appointments.

They have also been willing to be part of the solution engaging in non-billable work like the development and implementation of pandemic planning.

The very best of our registrars and our colleagues have understood the importance of getting on with the job despite the increased phone calls, increased non billable admin time and decreased patients. They have understood changes to practice hours, reductions in clinician hours and adapted like all GPs to delivery via telehealth for appropriate patients.

Practices and supervisors have supported their registrars, particularly GPT1’s who have not only had to contend with a change from the hospital environment to general practice, but one involving a lot of telehealth. Senior registrars have been stressed with the changes to the FRACGP exam. Please familiarise yourself with these changes to help your registrar.

This month the Australian Government advised that MBS Items would increase by 1.5%. Commensurately, GP registrar base salaries from term 2 in 2020 will attract the new base rates you will see in the eNews.

The desire to see registrars paid a protected base salary and conditions equivalent to other government funded medical specialties remains on the agenda for all industry bodies and this has been reflected in medical media and more recently on the Health Minister’s GP Training Advisory Committee (GPTAC) agenda. While the mechanism of achieving parity is a shared aspiration, the mechanism to achieving it is not. GP Supervisors continue to ask the question, will Government fund hospital salaries and conditions and will the registrars currently earning well above the equivalent hospital base be prepared to take a pay cut?

It appears this may all be taken out of the hands of registrars and government as GPSA understands that the Australian Salaried Medical Officers Federation (ASMOF) are seeking to have GP registrars included in their award. This shift would see the medical union strongly influence GP registrar pay and conditions. While its easy to argue for more when you don’t have to deal with the wafer thin margins as a general practice owner, the discussion continues to raise more questions than answers.

Take care out there.

 

Dr Gerard Connors
Chair GPSA