GPs want answers on Wappett: survey

6 minute read

A survey of RACGP members has found 75% want the college board to explain the sacking at an EGM.

In an exclusive survey conducted by Healthed this week for The Medical Republic, 75% of RACGP members said they wanted the college to hold an extraordinary general meeting to explain why it sacked Paul Wappett.

The survey sample size was 675, out of which 508 respondents agreed with the following proposition:

The RACGP board needs to hold an extraordinary general meeting to explain to members why the most recent CEO has departed and what the subsequent plans are.

All of these respondents identified as members of the RACGP. HealthEd conducted the survey at the end of its fortnightly webinar, which approximately 1700 people attended, of which about 1300 identified as college members.

College CEO Paul Wappett was sacked by the board without cause on 28 November and was escorted off the premises, despite him having met all his key performance indicators and the board having signed off on a performance bonus.

Following the sacking, the board announced his departure to staff without giving a reason and has refused to answer any questions about its actions since, maintaining simply that Mr Wappett was “not the right person for the job”.

Apparently Mr Wappett’s contract allows for the board to remove him from his role without cause so long as the college pays the notice period in his contract, which Mr Wappett says it has done.

The contract was due to run for another year.

In all respects externally and according to publicly available documentation such as annual reports, Mr Wappett appeared to be doing a very good job for the organisation.

The only potential blemish on his record came this year when the college realised that it was likely to end up with a $10m deficit in the first full year after it took on training.

However, Mr Wappett oversaw a program of cost cuts and redundancies and this deficit was reduced in this year’s annual 2023 annual report to only $5.6m.

It is understood that the revenues of the college in this current year (most of which have been collected as membership or education and training fees already) are such that the college is likely to return to surplus in the 2024 financial year reporting period, which is one year ahead of the declared schedule.

Mr Wappett this week issued a statement on the matter which indicated that at no point during his tenure had anyone on the board indicated his performance was in question or that he was “not the right person” for the job.

“Had I understood the Board had concerns with the way I was leading the college, I would have worked with them to achieve an orderly transition that would cause the least disruption to the college, members and employees at such a critical time … while the Board conducted a full search for my replacement, as is typical in CEO succession where there is no performance or disciplinary issue,” Mr Wappett said in his statement.

Along with the significant vote in favour of an EGM so the board could explain its actions to members, about 100 respondents made comments indicating their concern at how unprofessional and disrespectful the process appeared to have been and how this reflected on the college.

Some examples are below:

It was done suddenly and dramatically and stated was not for disciplinary or wrongdoing reasons. Have we lost the ability to treat others with respect? So is all that prattling on about cultural appropriateness, mutual respect in their educational material just lip service then? The man’s reputation has been tarnished by the “secrecy”. If he has done something wrong, tell us, don’t let whispers take hold.

Too much politics. I know that some political savvy is necessary to be able to liaise with government depts etc. but those that get to be in the higher positions in these organisations tend to either become “politicians” themselves, forgetting the basic ethics of medicine, or become little demigods who think they know what is best for everyone, again forgetting the “grassroots” and what medicine should be about. It become very “academic” rather than practical and logical and ethical.

Current Board is appalling in its approach to the CEO “firing”. Too many questions they simply are not answering or dealing with. Whole Board should stand down and new Elections held! I won’t be continuing with my membership with RACGP in 2024!!

RACGP is not representative of its members. Treatment of the most recent CEO was very very badly handled. No one likes bullying or seeing this behaviour. Poor role modelling.

After reading Mr Wappett public letter is quite confusing the manner of his dismissal. It seems disrespectful. The Board must have had compelling reasons to do it this way so please explain!

The CEO has already provided a synopsis of his achievements during his term and we accept his explanation. We would like to know why the RACGP has not accepted his achievements  and did it have other expectations?

I have over the many years of my RACGP membership been very happy with The College and especially education support it provides. But this recent event is out of the blue and leaves me feeling upset at probable conflicts in the administration for reasons unknown to us “outside.” Most unfortunate and upsetting.

What a lot of numbnuts! The only person with really high level corporate annd leadership skill  are essentially fired! Good luck to now incorporate training in RACGP. I think time to look for another educational home that does not cost a fortune. I am over the RACGP for a long time now.

Under the Corporations Act, which governs most public companies in Australia, if 5% of shareholders vote to call an extraordinary general meeting, the board has to call such a meeting.

As a registered charity, the RACGP is governed by the governance rules outlined by the Australian Charities and Not for Profits Commission (ACPC), which does not list the same 5% requirement for its boards.

Not withstanding, ACPC governance Standard No 2 requires that its charities:

“ take reasonable steps to be accountable to their members, and allow their members adequate opportunities to raise concerns about how the charity is run”.

If the board continues to refuse to talk to members about this event and explain itself it would seem evident that it is at least not complying with the requirements of the ACPC which governs its existence as an entity.

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