Novel corona virus distracts from bushfire devastation


The novel corona virus now occupying our thoughts internationally has shifted much focus away from those who still need us.

While we should expect that with a 24/7 news cycle that one singular issue is not likely to remain topical, GPSA has been considering how best to continue to assist our bushfire-affected communities since the media attention and flood of public donations have dwindled.

GPSA contacted the Mallacoota Medical Centre, whose community and surrounds were devastated by the January 2020 bushfires. The key message received loud and clear is that all communities affected by the fires nationally continue to struggle with staffing, supplies and not only the community’s general PTSD associated with the fires but the PTSD clinicians have likely sustained themselves that they have had to work through for their patients’ sakes.

Mallacoota Medical Centre is one of many centres in bushfire-affected areas that will need ongoing support and attention. For these communities, they are no longer novel like the corona virus, but their existing realities are just as dire and will be for a very long time. Please continue to give your time and donations generously.

RTO and College support for remote supervision in affected communities

GPSA wrote to the RACGP (you can read the letter here) and the CEOs of your training providers (read the letter here) in January specifically seeking a college and local training provider solution to enable remote supervision of registrars interested in providing locum support or indeed supervisors with registrars being able to provide remote supervision while they engaged in locum relief to bushfire-affected areas.

While nothing will ever beat the gold standard of onsite GP supervision for GP registrars, GP supervisors are typically pragmatic and very generous.

Previous disasters around Australia have highlighted the challenges that exist when communities affected by disaster have their registrars removed at a time when they are needed most and the challenge of retaining assistance after the immediate attention and concern wears off. So, we have sought a pragmatic solution for those who wish to engage and support affected communities.

Transition of AGPT policy and eligibility to Colleges in early 2020

The Department of Health and the Colleges have advised (you can read the formal notification here) that the AGPT policy and eligibility functions previously administered and managed by the Department of Health will be formally handed over to the colleges in early 2020. They have advised that AGPT policy will remain stable until the end of 2021 to ensure continuity for the sector.

Rural Generalist Coordination Units

The Department of Health has sent out non-competitive grant opportunities to state health departments to apply for funds to establish coordination units in anticipation of the rural generalist pathway commencing in 2021. The grant opportunities closed on 17 January 2020.

GPSA has written to the department about this to express our concern that previous communication from GPSA to the Hon. Minister Greg Hunt and Department of Health personnel (read the letter here) about the risks associated with the single employer model do not appear to have been resolved prior to a single employer being appointed.

Department personnel have responded stating that the coordination units are separate to considerations around the single employer mechanisms or alternate proposals.

Dave McNally, Director GP Training Systems, advised that the risks, challenges and conflicts identified by GPSA have absolutely been received and the department is working conscientiously through the issues associated.

GP Supervisor Review

As advised in the eNews before Christmas, GP Supervisors Australia has commenced a consultancy with the Department to review GP supervision of a range of programs. We have had some great input from the GP supervisor community about the degree to which supervision is in/adequately funded.

This project is a unique opportunity for GP supervisors to feed into identifying just what is required into the future. Please do take the opportunity to contribute by registering your expression of interest to be interviewed here.

New training terms

As I write this all regions have either already commenced a new training term or they are about to. This is a busy time for practices and supervisors. There is induction and orientation of new registrars, contracts and getting your registrar settled into the practice. Getting to know where your registrar sits on the competency register can take time. Some over, while others under, estimate their competence (over/under confident) and some have an appropriate self-awareness. Like a patient consult – time will tell. It is not easy what we do, but it is absolutely vital to our patients and our communities.

College support for GP supervisors

GPSA has written to both the RACGP and ACRRM seeking their assurances that once they take over GP training funding that they will continue to support funded supervision into the future. We will continue to engage with the colleges constructively throughout 2020 to ensure the GP training community remains secure that the GP supervisor community’s remit is to deliver internationally recognised gold standard GP training and we can only do that through support from the colleges when funding for GP training transitions to them in 2022.

GPSA resources there to support you

Importantly, GPSA has a range of resources to support you throughout 2020. We encourage you to have a look at the orientation checklist, teaching plans, guides and other resources that are all free and open access to assist you.

Have you taken a break recently?

Finally, to those of our community who worked through Christmas and New Year and much of January to ensure their communities had access to primary care and their staff and colleagues could take a well-earned break – thank you!

Please be sure to consider taking a break yourself also – sustainable practice includes looking after your team, which includes yourself.  See our new teaching plan Doctors’ health and self care for some great advice for GPs and their registrars.

Yours in GP training,

Dr Gerard Connors
Chair GPSA

Date reviewed: 06 February 2020

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