RACGP ramps up its Canberra presence

The RACGP is establishing a permanent office in Canberra in a sign of its increasingly prominent role as a policy advocate for general practice. 

The new office will be housed in one of the best-connected pieces of real estate in the capital – the National Press Club building on National Circuit, Barton, just around the corner from Parliament House.  

“We are a national organisation and realistically we should have a physical presence in all states and territories,” RACGP President Dr Bastian Seidel said. 

“Particularly, with a stronger focus on advocacy now, we should have a presence close to political decision makers and the Department of Health. 

It had got to a point where members would be surprised if the College did not have a foothold in the Australian Capital Territory.  

“If we want the voice of general practice to be heard we just have to be here,” Dr Seidel said, speaking to The Medical Republic during one of his frequent trips to the capital. 

The AMA and the Rural Doctors Association of Australia have Canberra offices, as do organisations representing pharmacists, pharmaceutical companies and many other health stakeholders. 

The RACGP has become increasingly outspoken on political issues affecting GPs and patients, after the AMA initially took the lead in a public campaign against the prolonged  Medicare rebate freeze.  

Dr Seidel said the idea of a Canberra office won support after he suggested it during an academic session at the RACGP’s annual conference in Perth last year.  

He declined to put a figure on the outlay for the new premises.  TMR has been told office space in the National Press Club building typically rents for $380 to $430 per square metre per year.  

Dr Seidel will deliver an address titled “Bursting the health bubble – How your GP is saving the Australian health system” –  at a luncheon to launch the office on March 20.  

The Tasmanian GP and practice owner said he was encouraged by his latest rounds of meetings with ministers.  

“I’ve now had multiple discussions and meetings with Health Minister Hunt and those meetings have been positive and progressing well.   

“The Medicare rebate freeze has now generally become a political problem, so I think that needs to be resolved. That’s something we have advocated for quite a long time now. 

“Politicians talk a lot about cost of living pressures.  With bulk-billing rates dropping and out-of-pocket costs rising, lifting the rebate freeze would have a significant positive impact on the costs of seeing a general practitioner for our patients. 

“But of course, that’s not the only thing.  There has to be a suite of initiatives and arrangements to ensure general practice is funded properly. Minister Hunt is very well aware of this.”