‘Really encouraging’ first RACGP meeting with new health minister

Jolyon Attwooll

9/06/2022 3:50:18 PM

A group from the college has visited the incoming Minister for Health and Aged Care Mark Butler as he gets his feet under a new desk in Canberra.

RACGP with Minister for Health Mark Butler
RACGP CEO Paul Wappett and President Adjunct Professor Karen Price with Federal Health Minister Mark Butler.

An encouraging start: that was the view of the RACGP group who met with the new Federal Minister for Health and Aged Care Mark Butler for the first time this week.
RACGP President Adjunct Professor Karen Price, CEO Paul Wappett, and the college’s Chief Policy Officer, Roald Versteeg, travelled to Canberra to meet Minister Butler, who was confirmed in the post last Tuesday.  
All reported a constructive, positive encounter that included discussion of a broad range of the challenges facing general practice during the term of the incoming government and beyond.
At the top of the agenda was the 10-Year Primary Care Plan, along with Medicare reform, the crisis in aged care, and the chronic challenges facing the rural GP workforce.
Major changes such as voluntary patient enrolment and profession-led training were also covered.
Professor Price told newsGP she came away from the meeting feeling optimistic that the long-term primary care plan, which has been finalised but never funded, will be put into place.
‘It was really quite a positive meeting,’ she said. ‘It’s obviously very early in the process, he’s still forming his department.
‘The Minister is very focused on the 10-year plan, and implementing that, so that was encouraging.
He doesn’t want any more plans; he wants to get on with it.’
Another topic consistently cited by many college members as a pressing issue was also raised.
‘We spoke about the importance of having longer consultations that are well funded to ensure that GPs can give appropriate care to people with chronic and complex medical presentations,’ Mr Wappett told newsGP.
‘[The Minister] was very enthusiastic about that.’
Professor Price also said there appears to be ‘a good appetite’ for change on that front, and that patient centred care was ‘very large on the agenda’.
‘There’s … a good understanding that Medicare has lagged in this in this respect,’ she said.
An early task for the new government will be to flesh out the detail of the Medicare reform that was a central part of the Labor Party’s pitch to the electorate.
In the weeks leading up to the election, it promised almost $1 billion in general practice funding, including $750 million in total over three years set aside for Medicare funding reform.
A ‘Strengthening Medicare Fund taskforce’, which will be chaired by Minister Butler will get underway shortly.
Professor Price said she expects to see some of the recommendations from the taskforce finalised and released before Christmas.
Mr Wappett, meanwhile, believes the RACGP’s role in that group will be a big part of the initial relationship with the incoming government.

‘The minister is keen for us to have an involvement in the taskforce and make sure that we’ve got a strong and respected voice that helps the taskforce come up with deliverables that government will be able to put into place,’ he said.
‘We’ll be well placed to be a leading voice.’
Mr Wappett also said he came away with a reassuring sense the new government appreciates the vital role of GPs.
‘We’re really encouraged that the Minister understands the importance of placing general practice at the centre of the healthcare system and ensuring that people have access, via Medicare and otherwise, to quality GPs,’ he said.
‘This is going to be a government that recognises that access to a GP is a critical part of keeping the community healthy, and that they fully understand the role that GPs play in that and the centrality of GPs to that.
‘We can expect that they will be seeking our advice on a range of fronts.’
Professor Price said she is looking forward to working with the new government to get change underway – and believes that the broad consensus among other medical organisations that general practice needs reform will create their own momentum.
‘I think Australians are very aware that the health system is in trouble,’ she said. ‘It is in trouble in rural and remote [areas], but it’s also creeping into metropolitan areas. And we know that by 2030, in all urban areas, there’ll be a shortage of GPs.
‘That can’t continue, or the whole health system will suffer.
‘We just want to get on with the job of fixing healthcare. We know it’s in crisis, and it needs to be fixed.’
Professor Price said the college will be attending frequent meetings with the new ministerial team as the Government’s work gathers momentum and will be looking to build on a positive start.
‘We have to see where that goes,’ she said. ‘It’s always going to come down to the devil in the detail.’
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Dr Margaret Vivienne Swenson   14/06/2022 4:33:08 AM

Encouraging, having a GP at the RACGP helm like Karen is essential but like the pharmacy guild we need constant Canberra lobbyists to keep our needs in everyone’s mind. Where was the Australian Rural Commissioner - shouldn’t she be at this meeting too ? Rural is in crisis now and we need help asap - reverse the recent decision to stop the Tele-health specialist subsidy which helped us and our rural patients. Please make the process easier and as a GP Practice owner - why do we fully fund acquiring , assimilating,, training of any IMG’s to rural too.So make it more financially viable too for us to get IMG ‘s NOW ! And cut the red tape that is redundant too. RACGP making people pay $20 k for PEP program (Targeting rural yet again) is another barrier we can’t afford and unlike training AGPat registrars ( supervision is paid a little at least to offset the time spent and lost income too ) yet again … so not only the government but RACGP needs to have a look at itself too.