The deal echoes those agreed in secret by the RACGP and AMA last May
The Federal Government is promising to review the pay and incentives of rural doctors as part of a 'compact' signed with ACRRM ahead of next week’s federal budget.
It has also pledged to urgently finalise all outstanding legislative amendments required to grant the college full recognition as a certifier of specialist GPs.
The compact, made public on Wednesday, echoes those agreed in secret by the RACGP and AMA last May.
Those deals sparked consternation in the profession after being used by the government to justify prolonging the Medicare freeze.
But ACRRM insists its compact is different because it was not revealed on budget night and was signed only after consulting with members.
“Signing this in no way limits our advocacy on the budget or any other matter related to the health of rural and remote communities,” says ACRRM president Associate Professor Ruth Stewart.
“It does not compromise our vision or mission statement and was formulated based on the feedback of members.”
Under the terms of the agreement, the government pledges “appropriate financial investment and policy support” towards:
- Encouraging non-VR GPs to become ACRRM fellows.
- Helping the college take over a portion of the $250 million Australian General Practice Training Program from next year.
- Supporting the growth of ACRRM’s training pathways.
Beyond that, the compact includes a commitment that the national rural generalist pathway, which is under development, will include nationally consistent industrial arrangements and support for rural generalist GPs.
A key part of the compact is an agreement to examine ways of encouraging more skilled doctors to work outside the cities with incentive structures that “recognise the expanded scope and demands of service provision in rural practice”.
In return for a lead role in data governance and research, the college says it will continue pushing the rollout of the My Health Record system and encourage uptake of telehealth.
Minister for Rural Health Bridget McKenzie says the compact will ensure recognition of ACRRM as a peak body for general practice.
“The compact recognises the pivotal role ACRRM plays in strengthening the Australian healthcare system, and the shared vision to improve access and services in the regions,” she said.
“It acknowledges the role of the college as a peak body that sets the standards for training GPs to ensure high-quality care by doctors in communities across the nation.”
Professor Stewart added: “We didn’t ask for this. The minister offered it to us and I was particularly keen to ensure that the process was one that our members were comfortable with.
“We’ve not just signed a piece of paper because the RACGP have one. I wanted something that was meaningful to the work we do.”