GP practice owners to hold ‘crisis meeting’

3 minute read

There’s arguably never been a more difficult time to be a GP practice owner


General practice owners will brainstorm ways to defend doctor-owned businesses against threats to their viability at the lobby group’s first annual conference.

The Australian General Practice Alliance (AGPA) said the one-day event, to be held in Sydney next month under the theme “Make GP Great Again”, would be open to all interested GPs, not just AGPA members and owners.

“We are calling it a crisis meeting,” Dr Sean Stevens, a Perth GP and a director of the political lobby group, told The Medical Republic.

The conference would include an information session, to bring doctors up to date on risks to the doctor-owned general practice business model, and a brainstorming session to offer solutions.

“There’s the pathology rents issue, which affects practice owners directly, also the Medicare rebate freeze, the inadequately funded Health Care Homes model, changes to the practice incentive program, and the MBS review,” Dr Stevens said.

“All of these things are playing into general practice, and private general practice owners are affected more than anyone. If there’s a drop in the profitability of general practice it affects us disproportionately – and the corporates are circling.”

Participants will also discuss ways to raise the profile of privately owned general practice.

AGPA has invited Federal Health Minister Greg Hunt to attend the event.

The political lobby group was formed in anger four months ago in response to a government promise, made before the 2016 federal election, to control GP pathology rent premiums.

Then health minister Sussan Ley agreed to cut the rents GPs can charge for pathology collection centres at their practices, in return for an end to Pathology Australia’s campaign against cuts to pathology bulk-billing incentives.

AGPA argued the deal discriminated specifically against GP-owners, could strip $150 to $200 million from the sector, and would only benefit corporate-run medical clinics and pathology labs.

The government shifted the start date of the market intervention from January to July, but is believed to have taken advice supporting the doctors’ position, making it uncertain whether it will go ahead.

Pathology Australia is pressing Minister Hunt to honour the rents promise his predecessor made last May.

“We will be seeking early engagement with the new health minister and his office to review the timelines for this critical improvement and change to pathology collection centres,” Pathology Australia CEO Liesel Wett said in a statement after Mr Hunt’s appointment.

The AGPA conference will be held on Saturday, March 4, at the Stamford Plaza, Sydney Airport.

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