Boosting GP numbers ‘highest’ healthcare priority

Matt Woodley

26/09/2022 5:21:30 PM

The pronouncement follows reports of an ongoing ‘great resignation’ within general practice, as the pandemic fallout continues.

Federal Health Minister Mark Butler
Federal Health Minister Mark Butler says general practice is in its ‘most perilous state’ since the establishment of Medicare.

Increasing the number of GPs is the Federal Government’s number one health priority, Minister for Health and Aged Care Mark Butler has told reporters.
Minister Butler held a press conference in Parliament on Monday morning in which he described general practice as being in its ‘most perilous state’ in the near 40-year history of Medicare.
‘The fact that only 15% of young medical graduates are choosing a career in general practice is frankly terrifying,’ he said.
‘You don’t have to go back too many years to find a time when about half of medical graduates were choosing a career in general practice.’
The Minister’s comments follow reports over the weekend of a ‘great resignation’ of GPs in recent months, many of whom have been left burnt out as a result of the pandemic – and the lack of support they received.
‘They just stopped working, because they felt burnt out,’ prominent GP Dr Mukesh Haikerwal told News Corp. ‘We were on the frontline and we didn’t stop working.
‘Our staff were completely wiped … [the Government] kept saying “go to your GP”. They made announcements without consulting or working with us.

‘If you’re coming towards the end of your career and you’ve been treated that way, you think “why would I bother?”.’
RACGP President Adjunct Professor Karen Price told the same publication that she has also seen an increase in GPs leaving clinical roles.
‘It appears to me to be a lot of women and some of the figures are suggesting that it’s more in the under-35s and over-65s,’ she said.
‘We need immediate action on this to stop the potential loss of doctors who are already qualified and working.
‘Years of underfunding and neglect have put general practice in crisis.’
Professor Price also warned that graduates are at risk of burnout if the system continues to prevent them from providing the care they want to, which will have a flow-on effect on hospitals.
‘We’ve got this at-risk group of doctors who are providing high-quality care, where the system doesn’t support it,’ she said.
‘It’s more worthwhile to push patients through than it is to spend time with them, which is scandalous.
‘We’ve got an emerging mental health pandemic, we’ve got aged care, we’ve got longer complex and multiple medical conditions.
‘It’s absolute nonsense that we are better remunerated for doing a procedure than we are for counselling suicidal adolescents.’
Minister Butler has indicated the issue will be discussed at this week’s Strengthening Medicare Taskforce meeting.
‘It is not going to be easy to turn around a statistic like only 15% of young medical graduates choosing general practice as their career,’ he said.
‘I am under no misapprehension as to the scale of that challenge. And I see that as the highest priority in health policy for this government.’
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Dr Mark Alexander Henschke, OAM   27/09/2022 7:35:47 PM

After 30 years as a rural general practitioner, I am now teaching undergraduate medical students and undertaking Clinical Training Visits in the GP training program.
I see graduates not choosing a career in general practice because they have never experienced what it is like be a GP. Their only exposure to general practice was as an undergraduate, often sitting in a consulting room observing GP consultations.
The Federal Minister must reintroduce the The Prevocational General Practice Placements Program (PGPPP) which provided RMO hospital doctors with the opportunity to experience general practice.
A 10 week internship was introduced in 2008 and proved to be very effective in increasing the number of medical graduates choosing general practice as their specialty. It was so successful that it was deemed no longer necessary and axed in 2014. Young doctors must experience general practice to make an informed decision whether or not to choose general practice. Bring back PGPPP