‘Disconnected’, ‘Loss of focus’, ’Does great work’: Presidential candidates respond to member concerns

Yasmin Clarke

writer

Yasmin Clarke

Data analyst; Journalist

Felicity Nelson

writer

Felicity Nelson

Science journalist; strategy consultant

 

How do you plan to address member concerns if you are elected president?

This week, Healthed revealed that only 25% of GPs feel that they get value for money from their RACGP membership.

In Part 2 of this story, we are asking the RACGP presidential candidates to tell us how they plan to address this issue in one paragraph.

Healthed put the following question to all RACGP presidential candidates:

“The survey findings show that most GPs do not feel they get value for money from their RACGP membership. How do you plan to address this if you are elected president?”

Here are the responses:

Associate Professor Charlotte Hespe

As a RACGP GP member, I need our membership fees to deliver demonstrable ‘value’ for money. Back in 2017, I took up my current role in NSW/ACT faculty to address this specific  issue – recognising a loss of focus on members’ needs prior to this time. As a professional college we have more than 40,000 members, who all see the RACGP value proposition slightly differently. There are a huge range of things that we individually value as being more important. In our current crisis, the number one need is for RACGP to provide strong leadership and advocacy on behalf of our profession – remuneration, sustainability of general practice businesses, support and solutions for rural and remote and IMG-specific issues, training and assessment of GPiT, climate and environmental health, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Health to name just a few.

“In our current crisis, the number one need is for RACGP to provide strong leadership and advocacy on behalf of our profession.” – Professor Hespe

We also need the RACGP to provide leadership and support across GP mental health and well being, our professional journey (in particular the current CPD changes) and ensure we have ready access to our network (or tribe) of GPs to provide social, mentorship and educational support as we continue to navigate this crisis driven landscape.

 

Dr Kate Wylie

It is vital that the RACGP membership feels supported by their college. It is no surprise that GP remuneration was considered the most important issue for GPs at this election and, as college president, I would work hard to represent our needs and highlight our vital importance in Australia’s health care system. The Strengthening Medicare Taskforce is a golden opportunity to ensure our profession is well supported and I would welcome the opportunity to stand tall for our profession and ensure we are treated with the dignity we deserve. Supporting general practice is good for patients and is fiscally responsible. GP care is low carbon health care, so supporting us is also a win for our countries carbon budget.

It is heartening that our Net Promoter Score is steadily increasing, and that the majority of respondents were satisfied with the overall performance of the college. It is disappointing that only 28% of respondents felt they got value for money from their membership, but let’s acknowledge that 32% were undecided. This indicates that almost a third of respondents didn’t have enough information to give a firm ‘yes’ or ‘no’ answer. This may indicate a need to improve communication from the college to the membership, but I suspect it indicates that GPs are time poor and just don’t have the capacity to make a truly informed opinion. This is a preliminary study, and it would be worthwhile to repeat it with an increased sample size.

“[As RACGP President] I would strive to be accountable to the membership and stand up for the health of our profession, the health of our patients and the health of our beautiful planet upon which we all depend.” – Dr Wylie

The RACGP’s mission is to “improve the health and wellbeing of all people in Australia by supporting GPs”. If elected, I would make this my mission too. I would strive to be accountable to the membership and stand up for the health of our profession, the health of our patients and the health of our beautiful planet upon which we all depend.

 

Dr Julian Fidge

The college generally does great work. But I think most GPs would agree we are not effectively represented by the college, and we are not valued appropriately. I would address this by advocating gently, but more firmly for members. There is no basis for GPs to be paid less than other specialists. I would explain, firmly, that GP is unsustainable, and that if the government does not increase GP income by 5% per year for the next six years then the college will be forced to advise GPs to stop bulk-billing completely.

I would also organise the college to provide CPR training to doctors in a manner which is convenient for doctors. That is, in their practice, after hours or at lunch-time. I would also get the college to record individual subjects in education courses as contributions to CPD.

“There is no basis for GPs to be paid less than other specialists.” – Dr Fidge

The medical board is unable to carry out its functions properly as it is presently constituted, and is a continuing source of anxiety for doctors because of their malicious conduct. It is unacceptable for doctors to be suspended for minor breaches, because this is an effective fine of around a million dollars. I would lobby the Minister for Health to vacate the medical board and change the legislation.

I would also insist that the college is consulted about public health matters, like the COVID pandemic. It is ludicrous that single-organ specialists are providing advice about complex biopsychosocial issues for which  they have no training or experience. Where the government is acting wrongly, I would publish the college’s dissenting assessment and reasons.

Generally, I would raise the college’s professional and industrial profile, because the college is now the largest group of doctors and should be counselling the government about medical and professional matters.

Dr Chris Irwin

The perception that many have is that the RACGP is a monolith disconnected from the needs of everyday GPs. Some of this criticism is fair. The fact of the matter is that a training and education organisation doesn’t need a turnover of $100 million, and that a CPD log book shouldn’t cost coal face GPs $1,500 a year. I think GPs want more from the college than this.

“We all make mistakes, but it is difficult for members to trust an organisation that doesn’t clearly own up to them.” – Dr Irwin

They want an organisation that protects our patients and our profession – through advocacy, organising grass roots GPs and professional lobbying. I also want to address transparency to members. For example, I dislike the way RACGP tries sometimes to sweep things under the carpet, like the online registrar exam debacle. We all make mistakes but it is difficult for members to trust an organisation that doesn’t clearly own up to them and tell us what they have learnt from it. I think a more transparent RACGP that exists for members and meets member’s needs by strongly lobbying for them is the best way GPs will once again feel their membership fees are worth paying.

All candidates were contacted for comment, however Healthed didn’t receive responses from the other candidates. You can read the candidate campaign statements on the RACGP website.

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Yasmin Clarke

writer

Yasmin Clarke

Data analyst; Journalist

Felicity Nelson

writer

Felicity Nelson

Science journalist; strategy consultant

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