Was WONCA worth it?

Healthed

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Healthed

Healthed

 

Over 4000 attended, tickets were $1400 a piece, but feedback on the ground was mixed…

Over 4,000 delegates attended the WONCA world conference held in Sydney last week, but it seems many from the frontlines gave it a miss.

In an email to attendees sent Thursday morning, the WONCA organisers said feedback so far has been “overwhelmingly positive.” “It was such a joy-filled event,” they noted, adding that opportunity for delegates to network, learn and connect “was so evident.”

But while WONCA was undoubtedly a successfully run event, a significant number of GPs are questioning its relevance amidst the urgent existential challenges that many in the profession are currently facing. This might explain why Healthed’s most recent survey of 1847 GPs found that just 49 had attended the WONCA conference.

When it comes to GPs’ perceptions of the event, 45% of about 700 respondents believed WONCA has no effect on solving practical day-to-day issues or improving the viability of general practice, while nearly a third considered it to have only a “slightly positive” impact on these.

As for the impact on quality of patient care, 42% said no effect, one third said slightly positive, and just under one quarter said it has a very positive effect.

Navel gazing while general practice is in crisis

“What strikes me most is the massive chasm between the presentations including the keynotes and reality – these guys live on another planet. I had to chuckle when the RACGP slaps itself on the back for a job well done whilst the profession is hurtling towards extinction,” one GP who attended the conference summed up.

“I was there for the first day of the conference and it only reminded me of why I don’t go to these things very much. For the money spent the educational value is fairly minimal and network opportunities limited,” they said.

Not targeted to frontline GPs

“I found WONCA pretty disappointing. Glad I got the super cheap tickets. I felt like most things were pitched badly – either too clinically simple and basic, or interesting research but without useful practical applications,” one GP described the experience. It was also difficult to choose between the countless concurrent sessions, they added.

“I found the talks were not relevant and more research based with not much clinical transference to day-to-day practice,” another GP said.

“Friends that went said that it was too basic and possibly not worth their time,” said another.

Hefty price tag was a barrier to entry

At a cost of $1400 for members, and more than $1700 for non-members, many GPs were put off by the price tag.

“I just did not have the time and financial resources for this in 2023. Maybe next year,” one GP said.

A handful of Healthed’s survey respondents painted a more optimistic picture

“Would have liked to go as understand it was good and close colleagues went— and collective support for general practice across the globe and country is useful.”

“Was very interesting to meet GP from all the world.”

“It was a good experience if a bit disorganised at times.”

Others noted the opportunity for networking. “The best part was seeing people,” one GP said.

COVID concerns?

Others highlighted concerns about the message doctors were sending with regards to COVID.

“Disgraceful photo with so many GPs crammed into the venue and barely a mask in sight yet COVID-19 infection numbers on the rise – very bad image for GPs who supposedly care for the most vulnerable in our community,” one GP survey respondent wrote.

Indeed, in the wrap up email to attendees, the WONCA team advised that the concerns were not just hypothetical.

“We wanted to let you know that a small proportion of attendees have reported positive COVID-19 test results since the commencement of the conference,” they said. “Unfortunately, we are seeing a resurgence of COVID-19 in Australia at present, and so we encourage you to be vigilant.”

Note: This article was updated on 2 November.

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