The hangover from the Medicare rebate freeze continues, with GP registrars failing to win improved conditions in negotiations with the General Practice Supervisors Association (GPSA).
Relatively less attractive work conditions for GP registrars, along with the introduction of fees for applicants to the Australian General Practice Training (AGPT) program, are considered to be factors that are blunting interest in GP careers.
The GPSA and General Practice Registrars Australia (GPRA) are currently drafting a statement to explain the existing agreement would remain in force.
In a video statement to members, GPSA CEO Glen Wallace said the two groups had been unable to reach an accord for the first time in 20 years, suggesting the trainees’ requests were unaffordable.
He said the registrars had wanted “the best of both worlds”, combining a percentage of practice earnings with “the fantastic bits” of hospital doctors’ conditions, such as maternity and study leave.
“If practices at the lower end of profitability can meet accreditation standards and are proved to be quality training practices, they should not be prevented from training registrars,” he said.
“We advised that under the current funding environment there was really no more money being added for general practice, so where were they going to find the additional funds they were seeking from our members?”
GP registrars could have ended up with 30 weeks’ leave in a given year, Mr Wallace said.
GPRA President Dr Melanie Smith said registrars had not sought anything like that level of entitlement.
“GP registrars in many different forums – and many GPs – have asked for equitable conditions with hospital doctors,” she told The Medical Republic.
“Obviously, GP registrars would like to see general practice overall better remunerated and valued and better conditions for everyone in the profession.”
She said there were some significant disadvantages, particularly in the early stages of training, compared with hospital employment.
The talks over the National Terms and Conditions for Employment of Registrars (NTCER) were doomed to fail, she said.
“I would certainly say it’s a process that is broken. It is an adversarial negotiation between two parties that is supposed to be based around a free market-style negotiation. However, it is not operating in anything like a free market.”
She said the funding pressures and the Medicare rebate freeze would influence the attractiveness of general practice as a career choice, although several factors were behind the recent drop in applications.
Applications for entry into the AGPT program in 2018 dipped by 11.5% from the previous year to 2018. A total of 1,460 candidates accepted training places, 1,351 with RACGP and 109 with ACRRM.