Rural GPs call to retain regional training

There are fears medical training will become too city-centric under a new system. THE Federal Department of Health is being urged to keep rural and regional based-training programs for general practitioners.

The call from the Rural Doctors Association of Victoria (RDAV) comes after the federal government announced a shake-up to how training programs for GPs are delivered beyond the end of the year.

Under the current arrangement, 17 training programs are provided nationally by regional and metropolitan training providers to deliver the Australian General Practice Training Program (AGPTP) under contract from federal agency General Practice Education and Training (GPET).

The changes mean the 17 programs re-tendered and the functions of GPET will be transitioned to the Department of Health by the end of the year.

RDAV vice president Nola Maxfield said the fear was training would become too city-centric under the new system.

She said the changes would result in savings to the government but they were concerned the desire to save money would compromise the safety and quality of general practice training.

“We believe that a GP in a small rural community needs to have a different skill set. They are often required to perform more specialised tasks and their training needs to prepare them for it,” Dr Maxfield said. “There are three agencies in Victoria that have offices in rural and regional areas and there is a fear they may close under this plan.

“What we want to see is one rural based training provider, with offices in various locations, and one metropolitan based training provider. We do not support a model where there is one GP training provider for Victoria.”

Dr Maxfield said RDAV was also disappointed the Prevocational General Practice Placement Program (PGPPP) had been axed.

“This program was starting to deliver doctors to regional GP training programs,” she said.

“It means junior doctors will no longer be given the opportunity to experience rural and regional general practice; this decision alone will have an impact on attracting doctors to work in country Victoria.”

Chief executive officer of Warrnambool based Southern GP Training Greg McNeil said his group would join with two other regional training providers to prepare a tender to provide training to regional areas.

He said it was expected invitations to tender would be called early in the new year with contracts in place by September.

“There is quite a distinction between general practice in a metro area and in a regional area. We think we have a model that will address those differences,” Mr McNeil said.

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