Why a strong college equates to a strong profession

Harry Nespolon

1/06/2020 12:21:06 PM

Important advocacy work would not be possible without the support of members, RACGP President Dr Harry Nespolon writes.

RACGP President Dr Harry Nespolon.
RACGP President Dr Harry Nespolon believes there are still many issues clouding the future of general practice.

This year has been unlike any other in general practice.
Of course, every week, every day and even every patient brings with it a new challenge – such is the life of a GP – but as we approach the middle of 2020, I cannot remember a time in which our profession has been asked to do more, or undergone so much change.
It seems a lifetime ago that a firestorm was sweeping across much of Australia, threatening lives and razing entire communities. GPs provided invaluable help during the crisis and are now leading the charge to help those affected heal and rebuild.
But before the hazardous smoke choking our small towns and major cities had even cleared, we were faced with an even more insidious and widespread threat.
Everyone’s life has changed as result of COVID-19, but few have been as affected GPs.
As essential members of the frontline response, GPs risk daily exposure to infection from this invisible, and potentially deadly, threat. This was partly the reason the RACGP fought so hard – and so successfully – for the expansion of telehealth and, more specifically, to enable telephone consultations.
We were able to achieve these breakthroughs because those in power know we represent the will of Australia’s largest medical doctor community, and they needed our support for the tough times that inevitably lie ahead.
It is impossible to say what would have happened if we didn’t have 41,000 of Australia’s best and brightest backing us, but the fact we do certainly helped.
Of course, we cannot rest on our laurels while we celebrate these achievements; there are still many issues clouding the future of general practice.
By advocating for voluntary patient enrolment, we are working hard to ensure traditional practices are not disadvantaged by new telehealth changes and that they will still be able to offer patients the full range of primary care services. This is particularly important to the viability of many rural and regional practices.
Likewise, we’re continuing to tackle the issue of compulsory bulk-billing for telehealth consultations.
Even though official statistics show a spike in general practice activity during the pandemic without a proportionate increase in revenue, the Federal Government maintains the status quo will not change before 30 September. It is our view that mandatory bulk billing is contrary to the Australian Constitution and must be rectified as soon as possible, but we need you to help us drive this message home.
In addition, rent decreases demanded by in-clinic pathology firms remain a genuine problem for many practices, and while the current prediction is that pathology firms will revert to normal contractual activity from 1 July, we need to stay vigilant and ready to step up on your behalf if that does not eventuate.
These are just a few areas in which the RACGP is active and you only need to look at our record with regard to pharmacy overreach, tackling medical misinformation and fighting for more access to flu vaccinations for more evidence of the college acting in the best interests of our members and patients.
And yet, advocacy is only a small part of the work the RACGP does in the interest of its members.
For example, in recognition of the efforts members have made to update knowledge and skills in response to COVID-19, the RACGP Board has agreed to allocate 25 Continuing Professional Development (CPD) points to all members who require CPD compliance.
Membership also allows you the opportunity to have your say on the future direction of the college and the decisions it makes.
The college has acknowledged the financial uncertainty generated by the pandemic, and resolved to offer a 5% discount to already frozen membership fees. There is never a good time for bills to arrive, but hopefully this small gesture will help.
I encourage you all to renew your membership as soon as possible so you can continue to enjoy the advocacy, community, and professional and personal support the RACGP provides. 
We are who we stand for – and that is you.
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Dr Noela Catherine Whitby, AM   2/06/2020 8:46:15 AM

Thanks Harry for your advocacy for the profession during very trying times.

Dr Charmaine Jane Sargent   2/06/2020 9:11:32 AM

Thank you Dr Nespolon for your leadership and guidance throughout these unprecedented times. You have been a very visible president, advocating for the GP community through your presence in media and pushing government policy. I believe the next president has big shoes to fill and hope the new candidate continues to be accessible, strong,and practical as you have been. Good luck in your future endeavours.

Dr Ian Mark Light   2/06/2020 11:42:58 AM

An area of weakness is home calls by general practitioners and a team say 2 or 3 people total for care in the time of Covid 19.
Required is good PPE n95 mask Head visor gown gloves and PCR test kits .
Very little Primary Care Team Home Visits because of a poor supply of PPE and the Medicare items are not reflecting the complexity and the time to do great care .
You need the team particularly for Donning and Doffing PPE and for Records and Carrying Equipment .
For these visits the universal health care structure has to remunerate ethically .

Dr Nell De Graaf   2/06/2020 11:50:56 AM

Thanks Harry for your excellent myth busting advice about vaccinations .
We appreciate your clear and researched reply to Pete published in the paper!!

Dr Peter JD Spafford   2/06/2020 1:39:55 PM

Harry, thanks for what you have done, a humble start. Now get the Government to legislate that patients only pay the gap and Medicare the rebate ON THE SAME DAY. This is what is in your manifesto and still not fulfilled. You have only been driven in a reactive way. Please be proactive for a change.