3 June 2019

Bid to improve life as a GP registrar

Education General Practice

I would like you to imagine this. You are a GP in a busy rural area. You see a patient in the ED at 3am. You also work in your local residential aged care facility. The next morning you see 15 patients there.

“Under the current document governing GP employment, overall, you’ll be paid precisely zero dollars for all this on-call work.

“You will only receive your minimum guarantee wage under the National Terms and Conditions for the Employment of Registrars, which is currently, for a GPT1 registrar, $2,897 a fortnight before tax.”

This is Dr Marco Giuseppin letting rip his frustration with the current employment conditions for GP registrars at the AMA national conference in Brisbane last month.

“GP registrars are in the position where they often have to take a pay cut of 10-20% on the first-year salary of a hospital registrar,” he said.

“GP registrars face a power differential in contract negotiations. They have less choice about the practice, circumstances and hours in which they work.”

Dr Giuseppin is “a proud rural generalist and GP registrar in country Queensland” who spoke in favour of a policy motion to deliver equitable pay and employment conditions for GP registrars at the AMA conference.

“For the second year running now, we’ve seen an under-subscription of GP training in Australia,” said Dr Danielle McMullen, a GP and AMA NSW vice president, who moved the motion.

“There are spaces for GP registrars that haven’t gone filled, which really means that doctors are turning their noses up at this rewarding and critically important career pathway.

“We’ve really tried to pick apart why that’s happened, and we think that one of the contributing factors is the inequity of employment models between GP training and other specialty training programs.

“Now, look, it’s not all about the money… It’s really more about some of the other employment conditions.

“So, in GP training at the moment you have to renegotiate a contract every six months and so that means there is no entitlement to any maternity leave. It means things like sick leave and annual leave don’t accrue, so you don’t have access to anything more than two and a half days of sick leave every six months.”

Dr McMullen called on the AMA national conference delegates to pass a policy motion to support a single employer model for GP registrars.

“So, GP registrars can sign up at the beginning of their two years and be able to feel secure in the knowledge that they’ve got leave entitlements, that they have stable employment for the duration of their training,” she said.

Single employer models were already operating in New Zealand and would be used for the soon-to-be-launched National Rural Generalist Pathway, she said.

The policy motion passed with 98 in votes favour, four against and one abstention, and will now go to the AMA Federal Council for further debate.

Dr Giuseppin’s and Dr McMullen’s quotes have been edited for brevity