It is hoped that the move will help alleviate a “serious” shortage of general practitioners across the state, where there are currently more than 50 vacant positions.
“We need to set a goal… we need 50% of graduates to choose general medicine as their specialty of choice. “
RACGP President Dr Karen Price discusses solutions for the GP workforce following the latest research showing that the number of non-GPs is growing by 4.5% each year, compared to 3.5% for general practitioners.
As part of the ongoing efforts to attract more graduates to choose general medicine, the RACGP launched its new model of general medicine education in April of this year – Community training led by the RACGP profession – following the announcement in 2017 of the return of the Australian General Practice Training (AGPT) program to RACGP.
Describing the college’s operating model for managing and implementing the AGPT * program and the Distance Vocational Training Program (RVTS), the model also prompts young physicians to train in rural and remote communities, where the shortage of workforce is getting worse.
Although recognized as a national problem, one state in particular need of general practitioners is Tasmania, where the ‘catastrophe’ shortage in rural areas is having an impact on the health of patients and communities, according to the president of the RACGP. Tasmania, Dr Tim Jackson.
“At the moment, we have about 50 positions available at the Rural Workforce Agency to fill in Tassie,” he said. newsGP.
“Part of this college-led community training provides an opportunity to examine ways to improve the situation and the workforce, starting with the training and selection of registrars to go to rural and remote settings. . “
In a bid to help address GP shortages, the federal government announced higher group billing incentives as part of its 2020-2021 budget to encourage physician adoption and retention in rural areas. and remote.
About 10,000 rural doctors are expected to receive increased incentives to bill their patients in bulk starting in 2022, with $ 65.8 million provided to increase the incentive for rural bulk billing for physicians working in these areas.
While the additional investment in rural PMs is strongly welcomed by the RACGP, the investment must be part of a “broader and holistic policy response”, the the college budget overview shows.
For some Tasmanian GPs in small towns where there is a lack of resources and support, increased incentives for group billing ‘won’t cut it’.
Other general practitioners stay uncertain on the future of the Tasmanian workforce, even with the creation of the General Practice Incentive Fund Tasmania (GPIFT) to attract and retain physicians in the north and northwest of the state by offering a range of ‘incentives for physicians moving to the region.
Dr Jackson says that while the $ 2 million increase in GPIFT is a “step in the right direction” for rural GPs, more focus needs to be placed on connecting health services to ease the pressure on them. generalists.
“It’s probably not enough to encourage people to move,” he said.
‘It really must be in part [about] financing, and in part [about] enabling wrap-around services with the paramedical providers available in these rural communities, and this needs to be a team approach, rather than just the GP trying to do everything himself.
Despite the challenges of attracting medical students to specialize as general practitioners and to live and work in rural and regional communities, there are many advantages and many have chosen to stay.
“There are misconceptions about general practice and rural practice as a career, and the benefits of this specialty. It’s an exciting and diverse career – we will do a lot more to promote it to medical students, ”said Dr Michael Clements, Rural Chair of RACGP.
“The RACGP represents the most rural and regional GPs of all groups in Australia and increases the number of highly qualified GPs across the country [through the new training model] is our priority. ‘
Dr Jackson says the college’s new training model is part of the groundwork to support physician retention in rural and remote areas.
“Through training, we try to expose what we know, [which is] that if the medical students who have just completed their university training and the newly awarded doctors have a good experience in rural and remote communities, they are more likely to return to these communities, ”he said.
“So it’s important that we help give them the best time possible when they go out and do training in remote rural communities, and then support that experience.
“In these communities, general practitioners take care of the whole family unit, with the spouse and children, so it is also an incentive to allow people to stay.”
With the roll-out of profession-led community training part of the first steps to improve the distribution of GPs, Dr Jackson said the structure of the funding model is important.
“The problem is the funding model – it has to be a blended funding model,” he said.
“Partly through health insurance, [and] partly through state and community funding councils, that sort of thing. Because to be sustainable, more funding is needed, especially for the rural and remote workforce.
‘[Training organisation] General Medicine Training Tasmania has done a good job supporting training within the state and in rural areas, and with the new plan proposed by the university, we will build on the good work.
Dr Jackson and Dr Clements are meeting this week with key healthcare players in Tasmania, including local GPs and workforce training organizations to discuss solutions for the workforce.
* Applications for the final promotion of the AGPT 2022 program are open on August 30, 2021. More information is available on the RACGP website.
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