If media commentary is any measure, the GP community isn’t at all impressed.
Dr Bill Cootes, a former AMA secretary-general who served as an advisor to Sussan Ley, describes the compacts between the RACGP and the AMA with the federal government, announced last week on budget night, as “the most extraordinary documents I have seen in 30 years around this stuff”.
Writing in Medical Observer, he says they are little more than an “odd charade” and a “few trinkets” designed by the government to “ calm the restless natives”.
He sees virtually no substantive gains on the many serious issues facing general practice and is annoyed that pharmacists continue to do so well in the lobbying stakes, compared with doctors, for apparently little effort.
“The RACGP compact echoes that cosy, soothing rhetoric about general practice and primary care that has excited federal bureaucrats and GP dreamers for decades …” Dr Cootes said.
Paul Smith, writing for Australian Doctor, is even more blunt. He describes the compacts as “this is the gratitude you offer an abusive partner when they decide to no longer hit you”.
The Medical Republic hasn’t written specifically about the compacts but does note that if we were in a lobbying competition with most of the other professions, the only one we would have beaten in this budget is the banking sector probably.
$9m in year one, versus $200m for pharmacy, and $180m for the Australian Digital Health Agency to spend on the MyHR, which hasn’t saved us a red cent to date, does beg a few questions of anyone suggesting the compacts are are significant step forward.
As pointed out by Paul Smith in Australian Doctor, it feels like our GP leaders are just happy to be back in play somehow in what ever minor way. It’s certainly minor . And even when the thaw becomes better next year, it’s still putting the sector behind in true indexing terms, and doesn’t contemplate any catching up the lost years.
And what of true funding reform for measures like Health Care Homes? Amid the pleasantries of the compact, there is virtually nothing on how the country could meaningfully transition to this better patient funding model. Instead, we learned the that the lion’s share of the trial money would be going to IPN and Primary.
After budget night, the Sydney Morning Herald quoted AMA NSW president Brad Frankum saying the freeze would be an “ongoing problem for specialists and the patients who need their care in this state.”
And Crikey went on a rant about the $375m for the roll out of the MyHR which wasn’t really connected to the compact at all.
So we know what the leaders think. We know what the press thinks. But what do the rank and file really think.?
The medical press and some social media activity appear to have sent the the RACGP into defensive mode. In a statement this week, President Bastian Seidel said: “While this [guarantee] may seem like a step back to where we were before the big freeze, it’s a clear win for over 85% of Australians who receive preventative health services from their GPs each and every year.”
In a statement to members, Dr Seidel attempted to portray the agreement as a step forward, saying: “We recognise that not everything the profession is seeking is contained within this first Compact. It should be seen as the first step, and not the end-point. Our end-game is not just lifting of the freeze, but genuine and meaningful recognition of the value of general practice care.”
Among the 50 or so comments in the columns of the GP press, we could not find one that backed the RACGP on the compact. Rather, doctors vented their annoyance over:
- Pharmacists getting a lot more cash in the coming year(s)
- General practice receiving only $9m in year one
- The MyHR project receiving $375m over two years for what many perceive is an unproven or failing government intitiative
- The lack of a meaningful commitment to Health Care Homes
- Major corporates getting the majority of funding for Health Care Homes
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