The RACGP board has removed Paul Wappett as CEO, barely two years after he took on the role, and just seven days after its AGM.
UPDATED 2.25pm: The RACGP board knew it was removing Paul Wappett as CEO of the college at least two weeks ago, but didn’t tell members until a week after the Annual General Meeting.
While the college would not confirm or deny the circumstances surrounding Mr Wappett’s departure, it did confirm that it was a decision made by the board.
It’s unclear when Mr Wappett himself was informed about the board’s decision.
He’s only been with the college since October 2021, following Dr Matthew Miles’ resignation in July of that year.
Dr Miles himself only started in the role in August 2020.
The college has not given a reason for the board’s decision other than confirming that there was no suggestion of illegality on Mr Wappett’s part.
The timing of the announcement was curious, given that the RACGP’s AGM was held just one week ago in Melbourne.
Board chair Dr Lara Roeske confirmed that the decision had been made at a board meeting but did not disclose when this was.
The last board meeting was on 16 November, meaning that the board went into the AGM having already made the decision to part ways with Mr Wappett.
The fact that it wasn’t announced until after the AGM seems like a significant omission, given that the AGM is one of the mechanisms meant to hold boards accountable.
To be fair, last week’s meeting was technically about the 2022-23 financial year, which may be why Mr Wappett’s departure was not mentioned.
The upshot of not mentioning it at the AGM is that the board will not have to face pointed questions about the decision from members for up to 12 months.
“We will [report on] financial matters as required by laws and regulations for not-for-profit organisations, and there will be a [report] at the next AGM to fulfill our statutory requirements,” Dr Roeske told media this morning.
“We do expect that members should and can pose questions [on any payments made to Mr Wappett] at the AGM and we do expect to address those.”
Addressing the AGM last week, Mr Wappett appeared to be planning for the future.
“As your CEO I did want to give you assurances that while we’ve faced some financial headwinds over the past few years on both the revenue and the cost fronts, the RACGP is in a strong financial position,” he told members just seven days ago.
He then outlined a four-point plan, which included running a “lean and efficient” college that could prove its value to members.
In March of this year, Mr Wappett revealed the extent of the college’s post-covid financial situation was such that it was heading toward a $10 million operating deficit in the 2022-23 financial year.
In a bid to head off the projected shortfall, the college cut 15% of staff.
The gambit paid off – the operating deficit was just $5.7 million at the end of July.
Mr Wappett also implemented a membership category restructure that will likely see more members paying full fees in the future.
This move was not popular, particularly with part-time GP members.
The college’s annual report revealed he was remunerated to the tune of $637,000 over the last financial year, a slight increase on his predecessor.
“The RACGP board deeply appreciates Paul’s contribution to the RACGP,” Dr Roeske said.
“We will now move to build on the transformation we have started and will continue to deliver exceptional value for our members and strengthen Australia’s health system by growing, enabling and advocating for Australia’s GPs.”
Dr Roeske would not comment on the reasons behind the board’s decision, citing confidentiality reasons.
The interim CEO is Associate Professor David Hillis, a former GP.
Professor Hillis is an experienced CEO in the healthcare and education sectors and holds a current position with Monash University.
Note: a previous version of this story stated that Mr Wappett was fired by the board. This is still unconfirmed.