Local Member for Northern Tablelands Adam Marshall has sent out an email saying that the New England has been approved as the next site for the Single Employer Model of GP training which is expected to significantly address the region’s GP shortage. A spokesperson for the federal health Minister Mark Butler has confirmed this afternoon that they are still waiting for NSW to submit the EOI for the plan.
The following is the text of Mr Marshall’s email.
“Just days after a large community crisis meeting in Armidale about the deleterious state of the primary health care (GP) workforce in the region, Member for Northern Tablelands Adam Marshall has today announced a major shot-in-the-arm to help turnaround the decades-long GP exodus trend.
An elated Mr Marshall said the region had been approved by both the Commonwealth and State Governments as the next trial site for the successful GP Single Employer Model, an initiative which has been endorsed by the New England Division of General Practice and called for at this week’s public meeting.
“This is a massive shot-in-the-arm for the ailing GP workforce and the best news we’ve had on the primary healthcare front in a very long time,” Mr Marshall said.
“While this is no silver bullet, it will go a long way to addressing the sharp decline in GP numbers in the bush and our region and bolster the existing clinics and every hospital in the Northern Tablelands.
“I acknowledge thank Federal Health Minister Mark Butler and Regional Health Minister Bronnie Taylor for listening to our region’s legitimate concerns and our desire to implement this model, which we believe will help reverse the trend and see more GPs attracted to and remain in the region.
“The Single Employer Model requires the agreement and commitment to funding of both levels of government and I’m delighted that together partisanship has been put aside to deliver the solution we’ve wanted and quickly.”
Under the Model, junior doctors are directly employed at local public hospitals, while still enjoying the flexibility to practice as a private GP in a local practice, under supervision, accessing the Medicare Benefits Schedule.
“This is really the best of both worlds for GPs starting out their careers in medicine and makes being a rural GP so much more attractive and on par with specialists for graduating medical students.
“They are remunerated at high levels, enjoy all the leave and insurance entitlements of salaried NSW Health staff, while still being a private GP accessing the Medicare Scheme and all the benefits which comes with that.
“In essence, it’s a hybrid model of public and private GP to prove extra incentive to come and stay in our region while still training.
“It’s a real win-win scenario and has been hugely successful in the Murrumbidgee Health District, which pioneered the Model some years ago.
“This new model of practice also ensures that when someone presents to their local emergency department there is a doctor present as they are directly employed by the hospital, rather than utilising costly and unreliable locum doctors as is the case now.”
Mr Marshall said the next steps would see NSW Health engage with the Commonwealth’s Primary Health Network to sign up GP practices across the Northern Tablelands to take junior doctors, then recruit for multiple positions across the region.
“The next two intakes of junior doctors are late this year and early next year and the intention is still to have four based in Inverell, three and Glen Innes and around 12 at Armidale,” Mr Marshall said.
“But it’s not limited to those numbers – if GP clinics wish to take more junior doctors we can employ more at our local hospitals and give the GP workforce in our region the largest boost in decades.
“We could literally see 20-30 new doctors practicing in our local hospitals and local GP clinics from the start of next year – it’s that real.”
Mr Marshall paid tribute to the hard-working GPs right across the region who were doing more for less and seeing more patients than ever.
“They are the backbone of our country health services but are not often recognised as such,” he said.
“I want to especially single out Dr Vicki Howell and Dr Michelle Guppy from the Division of General Practice, who have spearheaded the push for the rollout of the single employer model here.
“The 16,000 signature petition last year did its job to shift focus onto workable solutions and pressure government to act and apply to the Commonwealth, but it’s been the grassroots support locally which had helped push this up the agenda.
“A big thank you also to New England Visions 2030, for keeping the focus on this issue and working on practical solutions.”
Mr Marshall said he would keep the community informed about progress on the rollout of the Single Employer Model across the region.”