No ‘rift’ over rural training

The last thing anyone wanted during parliament’s last sitting week was the suggestion of a rift between the RACGP and ACRRM.

After years of policy work, doctors dedicated to bridging the health gap between metro and country Australia were elated by the lower-house passage of a bill to pave the way for a more rural-specific health workforce.

Dr Ewen McPhee, president of the Rural Doctors Association of Australia, said it was gratifying that all sides of politics had got behind the bill to create the role of Rural Health Commissioner.

“We’ve made a good case and politicians of all colours have embraced it,” he said. “I really hope people recognise the work of people in both colleges in making this happen.” The RDAA, in fact, has a majority of RACGP members.

Assistant Health Minister Dr David Gillespie said the appointee would be a “fearless champion” for rural health whose top task would be to develop national rural generalist pathways for GP training.

“The aim of these pathways will be to address the most serious issue confronting the rural health sector – the lack of access to training for doctors in regional, rural and remote Australia.”

The bill is now set to sail through the Senate after the May budget.

So it struck an odd note when RACGP President Dr Seidel was quoted as describing rural generalism as “dogma” and saying he was concerned about a “fragmentation” of GP training.

While ACRRM has led rural-generalist training, adding advanced skills in obstetrics, anaesthetics and a number of other disciplines, the RACGP has expanded its FAR GP training on similar lines.

On Twitter, Dr Seidel denied any rift with the smaller GP college: “May I say, there is no rivalry between @RACGP & @ACRRM. We need to bring the profession together.”

He did not clarify the “dogma” remarks, reported in Australian Doctor, but issued a statement expressing hope that the commissioner would work collaboratively with the RACGP.

“Our rural communities need each and every one of us, and we’re hoping the National Rural Health Commissioner will be a strong supporter of rural general practice and the concept of rural generalism.”