GPs can now challenge the DPA classification for their area

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​Practices can now request a review of their area’s DPA status, allowing them to access benefits like hiring International Medical Graduates and Australian-trained bonded doctors.

The review was announced by the newly appointed Regional Health Minister, Dr David Guillespie in September and according to a release from his office, it will allow practices in regional and rural areas to respond to unforeseen workforce and population changes that affect healthcare delivery.

The move could not have come at a better time as RACGP has been strongly advocating the issue for quite a while. According to Chair of RACGP Rural, Dr Michael Clements, the review reflects what members have been asking for, and the advocacy that the RACGP has been providing.

“This ability to be able to appeal and show the circumstance of your particular practice and the growth around you is an excellent change,” he said.

The current DPA classification system determines how many practices access much-needed labour and GPs have been previously unable to request a review.

According to the Department of Health, DPA status is determined by several factors including the size of the GP workforce, population demographics, the density of practices, and patient flow. However, in some instances, certain areas have lost their DPA status due to factors they couldn't really understand.

As Dr Clements put it, “[the DPA status] has been a mysterious mathematical algorithm that determines who gets what. [GPs] are in the dark as to what makes these changes occur.”

The loss of DPA status is also critical to the functioning of a practice because they often rely on retaining status to attract International Medical Graduates.

“What’s been happening is that status has been ripped out from underneath you without warning and practice viability has been ruined. We have had closures.”

Another review of the specific criteria used to assess DPA is scheduled for later in the year.

Read: RACGP backs GP-led role in COVID-19 vaccine rollout

IMG Visas poised to help tackle rural workforce shortages

The RACGP is excited to welcome speedy visa applications for International Medical Graduates, especially at a time when border closures have restricted the flow of the locum workforce driving many rural towns.

According to Dr Clements, “Long term, we will grow our own GPs through rural generalism and similar programs. But it will not solve all our problems and certainly not in the near future. IMGs will continue to play a crucial role in our rural workforce.”

The Department of Home Affairs has also listed GPs as one of the 17 priority occupations in the country.

Dr Clements is particularly close to this issue, as he’s currently recruiting GPs for his own practice in Magnetic Island off Townsville, an area afflicted by workforce shortages.

“We recognise IMGs form a crucial part of the rural workforce. There are many examples of very successful international recruitment. The IMG visa has formed a core part of the Government plan for rural workforce shortages. The COVID limitations on interstate travel have decimated the fluid locum workforce that normally moves around. This change is welcome,” he said.

Read: Qualified Pharmacists Can Now Immigrate to Australia Following Rule Changes

DoH wants to understand the barriers to accreditation

The Department of Health has commissioned an independent report by mpconsulting to uncover the barriers and incentives that exist for general practices that participate in accreditation. The review will also highlight areas of improvement and explore other accreditation models.

According to RACGP Expert Committee - Standards for General Practices Chair Dr Louise Acland, feedback is welcome and encouraged.

“It touches on every practice that is accredited in terms of the questions that it raises. We are particularly keen to hear about issues that might be preventing practices that are not currently accredited. What are some potential barriers there?” she said.

According to Dr Acland, the review’s aim is to improve the process, make it more streamlined and eliminate some of the duplicate processes that practices go through.

Speaking on duplicate processes, Dr Acland said that the review hopes to make things more accessible and user friendly.

“If practices want to be accredited against the standards, then that’s one process. If practices want to have registrars, then they are required to be accredited against another set of standards. If practices want to do particular procedures - for example, if practices are involved in undertaking spirometry for the Coal Miners Workers’ Health Scheme - then there’s a different accreditation assessment that they need to do,” she said.

“This is quite an overarching review and it’s a good opportunity for all stakeholders to give their views to the Government about the process.”


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