$30k payments to level registrar playing field

4 minute read

Part II of the RACGP’s pre-budget submission looks at the GP workforce and proposes a payment to even out junior doctor salaries.

Money can’t buy happiness, but it might be able to buy the next best thing: a homegrown GP workforce. 

In the second of its three-part pre-budget submission, which was released today, the RACGP proposed a $44m per annum program that would provide first-year GP registrars with a one-off $32,500 payment. 

This figure wasn’t plucked from thin air: it’s the difference between the average hospital-based intern salary of $125,900 and the average salary of a first-year GP registrar, which is $93,400. 

In other words, it would make up for the pay cut that puts young doctors off pursuing general practice training. 

The college also pitched its own version of a paid parental and study leave program, which would set the government back about $31m each year.  

Under its proposed scheme, GPs could access 14 weeks of paid parental leave equating to around $36,000 per registrar and 10 days of study leave each year, which would amount to $5,100 per registrar.  

According to RACGP president Dr Nicole Higgins, a paid leave scheme would be particularly welcomed by female registrars, who make up 61% of the training cohort.  

“It’s important as we approach International Women’s Day to have a look at the inequities between those who train in hospitals and those who train in the community,” she told The Medical Republic.  

It’s not the first organisation to call for a paid GP registrar leave scheme this year. 

A few weeks ago, General Practice Registrars Australia put forward its own proposal

The key difference between the two is that the RACGP is proposing a direct payment scheme while GPRA’s vision is a self-sustaining industry endowment administered by a third party.  

Here’s how the two compare: 

Total cost $31m (p/a) $42m over 10 years 
Maternity leave length 14 weeks 8 weeks 
Pay during maternity leave $35,830 100% of base rate salary 
Study leave length 10 days (p/a) 15 days (over course of training) 
Pay during study leave $5,118 100% of base rate salary 

GP registrar leave schemes have been mooted before – during Dr Higgins’ previous role as chair of General Practice Supervisors Australia, she said, a proposal nearly got through but was stopped at the last minute by the Treasurer.  

“[That] was the previous government,” she said. 

“This is an opportunity now to ensure that GPs in training have parity with their hospital colleagues.” 

The college also recommended an $18m investment in the Fellowship Support Program and a further $7.2m for the Practice Experience Program.  

This funding would provide for the training of around 1100 international medical graduates.  

In years gone by the government has helped fund overseas trained doctors doing general practice, but stopped doing so in June last year.  

“There are two things that have happened [recently] – the AMC have now said that any doctor coming into Australia must be on a training pathway and the funding stopped for that pathway,” Dr Higgins said.  

“It is unfair to expect our overseas trained doctors who want to work in rural and regional Australia to have to self-fund.” 

The new Fellowship Support Program comes at a total cost of $32,000.  

The government’s decision to discontinue Commonwealth funding for internationally trained GPs meant they were “penalised”, Dr Higgins said.  

The federal budget won’t be handed down for another three months, but GP leaders are hopeful that there will be extra money for primary care following last year’s investment in strengthening Medicare.  

The RACGP still has one more budget submission to release, which will focus on research funding priorities.  

Its first submission called for a 20% increase to long consults and mental health items, as well as a substantial increase to the Workforce Incentive Program – Practice Stream.  

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