RACGP Top End visit an ‘important step’

Matt Woodley

9/11/2022 5:46:17 PM

College leaders are travelling to remote parts of the NT this week ahead of next year’s transition to profession-led training.

Nicole Higgins, Bruce Willett, and NT locals
RACGP President Elect Dr Nicole Higgins and Vice President Dr Bruce Willett during their visit to remote communities in the Northern Territory.

RACGP leaders have joined Northern Territory General Practice Education (NTGPE) representatives on a four-day tour of the Top End in an effort to strengthen long-term training in the region and find solutions for rural and remote GP shortages.
RACGP President-Elect Dr Nicole Higgins and Vice President Dr Bruce Willett are part of a group that will meet with doctors and other health professionals, as well as traditional owners, Aboriginal Elders and key local figures, in seven different NT remote communities from November 7–10.
Dr Higgins told newsGP it has been a ‘humbling privilege’ to visit the communities and meet with the lands’ traditional owners and gain first-hand experience of the region’s healthcare challenges.
‘They have welcomed the RACGP as the new mob who will be delivering GP training in their communities,’ she said.
‘We have also met with registrars, supervisors and the teams that support them – cultural mentors and educators, remote nurses and practice staff. We have listened and they have been heard.
‘Like the rest of Australia, they are suffering from an acute workforce shortage, burnout, lack of funding and lack of recognition for the amazing work they do.’
She also paid tribute to the ‘amazing work’ of the NTGPE, whose responsibilities will be assumed by the RACGP and ACRRM as part of next year’s transition to professional-led training.
‘This is a handover of relationships and trust. It is with deep respect that we acknowledge the work of the team at NTGPE over the last 20 years,’ Dr Higgins said.
‘These relationships have taken a long time to nurture. It is a promise to these communities that the RACGP will continue to support GP training in the NT.
‘The establishment of the new NT Faculty signifies the importance that RACGP places in supporting the health of Territorians.’
NTGPE CEO Dr Richard Zanner is also on the trip and said it was a real coup to have the RACGP’s leaders exploring some of the Territory’s most challenging communities in relation to primary healthcare.
‘We need more permanent, longer-term solutions to address social determinants of healthcare, which comprise a great proportion of the source of GP visits in the NT, and this week is an important step in the right direction,’ he said.
‘Ultimately strong communities make for strong people, and primary healthcare is an integral part of getting us there.
‘The purpose of the visits is to work with remote communities in the NT in handing over the custodianship of a very important training program for GPs to the colleges, including providing a cultural understanding of each community’s needs.’
NTGPE Chair Dr Emma Kennedy also reinforced the importance of connecting the colleges to local communities.
‘It’s the communities which are going to strengthen GP training, and we need to involve the communities, GP supervisors and training posts into the decisions affecting general practice training into the future and link in with the expertise on the ground,’ she said.
‘We’re handing over the know-how and experience to continue quality training of doctors in the Northern Territory, and we want to ensure that communities that are training our doctors are aware of the transition.
‘It’s really important to have RACGP’s leaders here this week as it demonstrates the commitment that the colleges have to ensuring local continuity and local expertise in our training, and to get to know the strengths and challenges we have in training doctors in the Territory.’
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