Optimism high at Practice Owners National Conference

Matt Woodley

23/05/2023 3:40:52 PM

Positivity dominated this year’s event as delegates sought to find solutions for a number of challenges on the horizon.

Collage of PONC images.
More than 650 GPs, practice owners and other delegates attended PONC 2023 in Adelaide.

The future of general practice care in Australia was at the top of the agenda for this year’s Practice Owners National Conference (PONC) in Adelaide.
The event, attended by more than 650 GPs, practice owners and other delegates, took place from 19–21 May and tackled a variety of pressing issues with the aim of helping practices grow and improving services for patients across Australia.
RACGP President Dr Nicole Higgins was front and centre for much of PONC 2023 and said the conference gave her the opportunity to hear from other GPs and practice owners at the coalface.
‘It is a pivotal time for Australian general practice,’ she said. ‘I want to thank everyone who came to our 2023 Practice Owners National Conference.
‘These opportunities for GPs, practice owners and teams to come together, learn and discuss the big issues are so valuable. I hope you feel inspired and excited about the future of general practice care, as I do.’
Dr Higgins said the future of general practice care, including the benefits of GP team-based care for patients, was a ‘hot topic’.
‘Team care involving GPs is key to meeting the needs of Australia’s population, and the increasing number of patients with chronic conditions and complex needs,’ she said.
‘We know it works. There is a great deal of evidence that shows how it benefits patients, including that it can help reduce hospital re-admissions.’

The overall feeling among attendees was described as ‘positive’, ‘enthusiastic’ and ‘optimistic’.
Exploring ways that practices can adapt to better meet the needs of patients, employing data and technology to improve patient care, and the need to attract and support international doctors to boost the GP workforce also captured a lot of attention.
However, while these issues generated much discussion, payroll tax was the most pressing concern for many attendees.
‘The new “Sick Tax” is a big concern because it’s beyond the margins of most practices – they will be forced to pass the costs on to patients, or they’ll have to close,’ Dr Higgins said.
‘This is an extra state payroll tax on GPs who rent rooms from a practice owner; practice owners already pay payroll tax on our employees, including nurses, receptionists, and GP registrars.
‘It undermines the Government’s Medicare reforms and recent significant investment in general practice care in the Budget. The RACGP is continuing to urge state and territory governments to put a stop to it.’
But even though delegates raised concerns about payroll tax, workforce, and recruitment, Dr Higgins described the overall feeling among attendees as ‘positive’, ‘enthusiastic’ and ‘optimistic’.
‘For the first time in decades, we have a government that’s committed to strengthening Medicare and general practice care,’ she said.
‘Finally, GPs and the essential care we provide, keeping people healthy and living longer is being valued.’
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PONC 2023 Practice Owners National Conference

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