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‘Direct advocacy’ sees accreditation extended for flood-affected


Anastasia Tsirtsakis


21/03/2022 4:24:13 PM

Accredited general practices that are up for review will be eligible to receive an extension of up to 12 months, allowing them to focus on rebuilding.

Debris from the recent floods outside a practice.
The aftermath of the floods outside Keen Street Clinic, one of the six general practices in Lismore visited recently by RACGP CEO Paul Wappett. (Image: Supplied)

Staff across general practices in flood-affected parts of Australia currently focused on serving their communities and rebuilding now have one less issue to worry about.
 
The Australian Commission for Safety and Quality in Health Care (the Commission) has confirmed general practices impacted by the recent floods in NSW and Queensland will be eligible to receive an extension to their current accreditation status of up to 12 months.
 
The decision follows what has been described as ‘swift advocacy’ from the RACGP, with college President Dr Karen Price having written to the Commission directly on 11 March, followed by a meeting last week.
 
Speaking to newsGP, Dr Louise Acland, Chair of the RACGP Expert Committee – Standards for General Practices and Co-Chair of the General Practice Accreditation Coordinating Committee for the Commission, praised Dr Price’s rapid action.
 
‘This has been done wonderfully by the Commission in response to direct advocacy by the college,’ Dr Acland said.
 
‘It’s just one less thing that those practices that have been so severely impacted by the floods have to worry about.’
 
Eligible practices include those that have been affected by the recent floods and whose accreditation is due to expire in the next 12 months, prior to March 2023.
 
As requested by the RACGP, eligible practices included those in areas covered by the National emergency declaration, as well as practices that are not.
 
Practice managers or owners can contact their accrediting agency, who will apply to the Commission on the practice’s behalf.
 
‘So it should be fairly straightforward for practices,’ Dr Acland said.
 
‘The accreditation cycle is traditionally triennial, and practices tend to do most of their preparation in the 12 months leading up to their expiry date because they need to have all their documents, policies and procedures handed into their accreditation agency in advance of the survey visit, which is usually scheduled to take place four months before the expiry date.
 
‘That 12 months is usually very busy for practices, and so we’re trying to reduce the administrative burden so they can just concentrate on rebuilding after the devastation.’
 
RACGP CEO Paul Wappett witnessed this devastation firsthand during a recent visit to his hometown of Lismore, where thousands of people have had their homes deemed uninhabitable.
 
There he visited members across six practices, including Keen Street Clinic, which he attended as a child, and where the floodwaters reached the ceiling resulting in the clinic losing everything – a scene he describes as ‘heart wrenching’.
 
‘Some of the practices had been impacted in the sense that the floodwaters have gone through their premises, rendering them unusable at least in the short-term,’ Mr Wappett told newsGP.
 
‘[Others] lost power and had staff who were affected, through to those who are on higher grounds and who were just looking for how it is that they could support those practices that have been impacted by allowing consulting rooms to be used and repurposing other things.’
 
While a confronting scene to witness, he said the response on the ground from GPs working together to support one another and their community was ‘inspiring’.
 
‘If ever you needed proof that GPs are a resilient and resourceful mob, and who are so thoroughly committed to serving the community, it was the perfect exemplar of that really,’ Mr Wappett said.
 
‘I saw those people from the Keen Street Clinic going through the devastation and the financial uncertainty for the partners associated with it, still in temporary premises at Southern Cross University treating patients and looking at alternative premises at St Vincent’s Hospital in order to be able to serve more patients.
 
‘When I got to one of the practices, there was a registrar there with a pressure hose cleaning up to make sure that the entrance to the clinic … was going to be safe.
 
‘There were nurses who were sterilising equipment with the old-fashioned sterilisation methods because that’s what it took.

Accreditation-flood-affected-practices-article.jpg
RACGP CEO Paul Wappett (R) with staff from Keen Street Clinic in Lismore at Southern Cross University, where a temporary clinic has been set up to treat patients. (Image: Supplied)

‘I just love that sense of no-one being too high and mighty to get in and just do the really tough slog work, to be able to provide a service to the community. I thought it was such a strong statement.’
 
This is where Mr Wappett says the Commission’s move to grant affected practices an extension to their accreditation makes total sense.
 
‘What it shows is that, like them, we’re caring about the fact that they need to be able to serve the community’s urgent needs first,’ he said.
 
‘And there’s a pragmatism to that, that I think they appreciate that says “Let’s make sure that we’ve got all of our priorities right when we have a disaster of this nature and the community’s impacted”, recognising that it was going to put an additional stress on them to be trying to meet the timeframes that were already in place.
 
‘It’s just taking one stress out of an extraordinarily stressful situation, when it’s not only the aspects of their work that’s been made more difficult, but their own lives.’
 
In addition to behind the scenes advocacy, Mr Wappett said that ensuring college representatives are on the ground as soon as possible during a disaster, such as the recent floods, is a model he would like to implement going forward.
 
‘Our members have invested a lot in becoming Fellows of the college, and they just want to know that membership carries with it a level of support when they need us,’ he said.
 
‘And sometimes that’s the very tangible things about having a series of practice guides and playbooks for recovery from disasters like this. Some of it is just the knowledge that we are going to be working with Government to make things easier for them in times of crisis.
 
‘And unashamedly, yes, some of it is just a sense of knowing that the college is there to listen to them and to offer empathy and sympathy when they’re going through tough times.
 
‘There’s no doubt that members … really appreciate seeing you, shaking your hand, talking in person, and crying on your shoulder when necessary.’
 
For further information on applying for an exemption to the accreditation process, practices can contact their accrediting agency or the Commission’s Advice Centre at advicecentre@safetyandquality.gov.au
 
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