Want Guild power? Pay Guild prices

4 minute read

The RACGP caused uproar when it upped its fees, but even the most expensive category is only about half of what pharmacists pay to their business lobby.

When the RACGP announced its plan to restructure membership subscription categories via email last month, more than a few noses were out of joint.

The college has since gone on an apology tour of sorts – it has released a lengthy website Q&A, conducted three webinars and admitted in an email to members that its communications “don’t always hit the mark”.

The incoming membership changes are three-fold.

Some categories, like the ones for new fellows, partnered GPs and GPs on extended leave have disappeared completely.

The part time “concession” membership description has been updated from a time-based definition to a pre-tax income threshold of less than $100,000 per annum from all revenue streams.

Previously, part time was defined as working fewer than 20 hours per week and just 40% of members paid full fees.  

Fees for all the remaining membership categories have increased by about 4%, which the RACGP said is in line with inflation.

This brings the full membership fee to $1567, and the concession fee to $940 per year.

The college also makes the point that similar organisations indexed their membership fees by between 5% and 8% this financial year alone and have fewer discount categories than the RACGP is proposing.

The Pharmacy Guild – a notoriously influential organisation representing pharmacy owners – only has three membership streams.

A year’s full membership puts owners back $2710, but non-owner pharmacists can join as “associates” for as little as $200 per year. For pharmacy students, Guild membership is free.

It’s not unusual for other medical colleges to have steep membership fees, either.

Specialist physicians, for example, can expect to shell out about $2000 per annum to the RACP, or $908 if they’re an overseas fellow.

There are a number of other categories for non-fellows who wish to subscribe or for doctors who just want to use the CPD program, but no discounts for part-timers.

Most analogous to the RACGP, though, is ACRRM, being the only other GP college.

The rural college has 10 categories and a range of discount options, but it works slightly differently to the RACGP models.

Full fees cost $1260, part-timers pay $770 and international medical graduates on the ACRRM specialist pathway pay $435.

Part time is defined as a “practitioner or academic working an average less than 20 hours per week”.

ACRRM confirmed with TMR that it defines “working” as extending to the scope of the profession.

To make it clearer – if someone works two eight-hour days per week as a GP and the other three days as a ski instructor, they would only need to pay the $770 to ACRRM each year.

But if that doctor works two days in general practice and spends the other three exercising their clinical knowledge as, say, an advisor to a medical defence organisation, they would fall into ACRRM’s definition of full time.

One of the major reasons for the RACGP shake-up is that the college is facing an operating deficit reaching into the millions this financial year.

However, according to the Q&A posted to its website, it’s not yet clear whether the consolidated result will be a deficit or surplus.

“The board and management recognised that the college was facing a substantial operating deficit for the 2022-23 financial year, in the order of about $10m, even taking into account additional revenue and a reduction in costs across the board,” it said.

“We recognised that eliminating that deficit in the course of one year would likely lead to a drastic impact on the services and support the college could provide to members.”

The membership fee restructure is part two of a three-year plan, which began in March with 50 jobs made redundant.

In the third financial year, 2024-25, the RACGP said it will investigate opportunities to diversify its revenue streams.

According to the RACGP, the changes aren’t just a cash grab, but are also about fairness.

“While the majority of members receive access to the same member benefits, last year fewer than 40% of members paid the full membership fee for these benefits,” it said.

“This means our full-fee-paying members essentially subsidised the cost of the College’s activities for the other 60% of members who don’t pay full fees.”

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