WA exam upheaval shows RACGP’s ‘lack of foresight’

4 minute read

The week-long lockdown in Western Australia is set to cost 69 GP trainees the opportunity to sit at least one of their RACGP fellowship exams.

GP trainees preparing to sit the Key Feature Problem in Perth and Bunbury this Friday have had their plans thrown into disarray, with this week’s snap lockdown making it unlikely they can attend exam centres.

The RACGP told TMR that 69 WA candidates enrolled for the KFP were expected to be affected. This includes six in Perth who were enrolled to re-sit the KFP exam after they were previously affected by the 2020.2 exam failure.

The lockdown for metropolitan Perth and the Peel and South West regions came into effect on Sunday, following a positive COVID test from a worker in one of the state’s quarantine hotels.

Residents in the lockdown are expected to stay at home until 6pm on Friday 5 February at 6pm – the same day the KFP exam is scheduled to take place.

The Applied Knowledge Test exam is scheduled to take place the day after the lockdown lifts, on Saturday 6 February.

Under the lockdown, individuals are only allowed to leave their home for work, exercise, shopping for essentials, attending medical appointments and providing care to vulnerable people.

The RACGP in an email to affected candidates said its exam venues in Perth and Bunbury were required to close under the current advice, and that sitting an exam was not considered essential work.

“This means you will not be able to sit the KFP, however, the AKT will go ahead on Saturday 6 February as scheduled,” the College said.

But in the event the lockdown is lifted before Friday, the RACGP said the KFP will go ahead as originally scheduled.

Dr Samuel Ognenis, a GP registrar in Perth, said it was confusing to have to continue studying for exams that may or may not go ahead as planned.

“It’s a frustrating and uncertain situation where you may potentially have one exam affected, one exam not affected by the lockdown,” he told TMR.

“Of course, as registrars our primary focus is that there are no further WA COVID cases and lockdown can end as soon as possible.”

But Dr Ognenis said many candidates were disappointed at the continued lack of contingency planning around fellowship exams, despite the lessons learnt from the AKT and KFP cancellations in late 2020.

“As news of the WA lockdown evolved yesterday, we weren’t really getting much communication directly from the College, it was via Facebook and word of mouth. And obviously, that’s not an ideal situation,” he said.

The RACGP contacted candidates via email a day later, on Monday morning.

Candidates were informed that if the lockdown prevented them from attempting the KFP and AKT, the RACGP would automatically enrol them to sit the 2020.2 exams, scheduled for Friday 9 and Saturday 10 July.

“If you would prefer to get a refund of your exam fees, you are more than welcome to withdraw without any financial penalty. You can then re-enrol in a future exam at your convenience,” the RACGP told candidates.

Dr Ognenis said if candidates were delayed until July to attempt the KFP exam – considered the most difficult of the three fellowship exams – it could mean they were having to study for their Remote Clinical Exam at the same time.

“There’s also the financial aspect of these exams where many of us have already taken leave for one or two weeks before these exams, so that means many of us wouldn’t also be able to take leave again in July,” he said.

Dr Ognenis also pointed to the more solid contingency planning by the RACP for its upcoming fellowship exams, where any candidates affected by a lockdown will be able to re-sit the schedule exam within four weeks of the original date.

“It’s frustrating to see the lack of foresight especially when we’ve known that there’s been various lockdowns from time to time in different states,” he said.

“The RACP was busy putting in place a contingency plan for their exams, and the RACGP hasn’t – other than to say, ‘bad luck, you can do it in July’ and essentially there’s no online option, there’s no remote option and there’s no follow up option.”

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