‘Valuable’ Senator meeting hailed as a success

Matt Woodley

13/06/2023 4:42:08 PM

RACGP representatives said important advocacy topics were covered, including extended dispensing, Medicare rebates and GP workforce.

Damien Zilm, Jordon Steele-John, Ramya Raman
Meekatharra GP Dr Damien Zilm with Greens health spokesperson Senator Jordon Steele-John and RACGP WA Chair Dr Ramya Raman. (Image: Supplied)

A number of issues impacting GPs at the coalface of Australia’s healthcare system were relayed to Federal Senator and Greens health spokesperson Senator Jordon Steele-John at a meeting with RACGP representatives last week.
The meeting, attended by RACGP WA Chair Dr Ramya Raman and more than a dozen other college representatives, raised a host of key issues, including 60-day dispensing, Medicare patient rebates, and GP workforce solutions.
Dr Raman told newsGP opportunities to speak face to face with politicians are important, as they allow MPs to hear from grassroot GPs and understand the role of general practice within Australia’s health system.
‘The session was engaging, interactive and the GPs who attended found it valuable to meet with the Senator to raise real life challenges that WA GPs are facing,’ she said.
‘We were able to discuss the role of the GP, the trust our patients have in us and the role that we play in the community in looking after the whole person.
‘We also spoke about the RACGP vision for general practice and the role of multidisciplinary care within GP-led teams.’
She said all the GPs who participated gave positive feedback and would welcome the chance to take part in future sessions.

JSJ-meeting-article.jpgMore than a dozen RACGP representatives attended the meeting with Greens Senator Jordon Steele-John. (Image: Supplied)
One of those GPs in attendance, Dr Damien Zilm – who practices in Meekatharra, a town 764 km northeast of Perth with fewer than 1000 people – was keen to speak to Senator Steele-John about the benefits of 60-day dispensing for his patients.
‘This change will save our patients money at a time when they really need it,’ he said.
‘It’s especially important for our families who just miss out on healthcare card subsidies – they are really hurting right now and halving the cost of their medication will make a difference.
‘It will also make life easier for my patients who live on remote stations and places that are over 100 kilometres from the nearest town with a pharmacy. It will cut the unnecessary travel, and they’ll be less likely to run out of their medications.’
Workforce was another item high on the agenda, with Dr Raman telling the Senator that more can be done to grow the state’s GP workforce, particularly in rural communities.
‘The RACGP is continuing to call for governments to make it easier and more attractive for international medical graduates to come to Australia by cutting red tape and re-instating the subsidy for their training to practice as a specialist GP,’ she said.
‘We also want to see the return of a general practice placement program so registrars can experience what it’s like to be a GP and the rewards of this career.’
Aside from helping to attract more medical graduates to general practice, Dr Raman said initiatives like the Prevocational General Practice Placement Program (PGPPP) can help future doctors gain a better understanding of continuity of care.
‘The workload involves understanding holistic care that includes discussing socioeconomic impacts of health on patient care and outcomes,’ she said.
‘In a single day of consulting, there are [typically] several complex medical and surgical, gynaecological, mental health, dermatological, paediatric, and preventive health issues.
‘Even if the candidate does not choose general practice as a speciality, the program enhances better understanding of community medicine for all doctors, which ultimately will contribute to reduced morbidity and mortality.’
And with Federal Government funding for the Practice Experience Program (PEP) set to end in the coming weeks, Dr Raman said securing investment in the subsequent Fellowship Support Program (FSP) was also discussed, alongside the need for higher Medicare patient rebates in general.
‘The RACGP welcomed the recent increase in Medicare rebates in the Federal Budget, but there is a long way to go to repair the decades of underfunding of what is Australia’s public health insurance,’ she said.
‘I look forward to working with MPs and Senators on this, and the Government’s reforms to continue strengthening Medicare and rebuilding general practice care for patients.’
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