President’s Blog: GP specialist recognition gets hit out of court | AMA (WA)


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President’s Blog: GP specialist recognition gets hit out of court

Friday September 22, 2023

Dr Michael Page, AMA (WA) President

For more than two years, the AMA (WA) has been arguing before the Industrial Magistrates Court of Western Australia that General Practitioners with fellowships RACGP or ACRRM, and providing hospital-based services to patients admitted under their bed-cards, and where the ultimate responsibility for the patient’s admission resides with them, should be regarded as Specialists and employed into positions reserved for those with Australian Medical Council (AMC) recognised specialist qualifications under the current WA Health Industrial Agreement.

Theses specialist General Practitioners, many of whom are employed at rural and remote hospitals or statewide services that rely on their specialist skill, accept the same level of responsibility for the patient’s outcome and are sought and employed because of their specialist qualifications in general practice.

The recent decision of the Industrial Magistrate, that the Agreement doesn’t provide automatic classification to these GPs as specialists, was extremely disappointing.

Nonetheless, the Magistrate did note that given the description of the role of the hospital-based GP, it would be appropriate for them to be classified as specialists, and there was no impediment to WA Health appointing them to that classification now.

In the context of drastic shortages of doctors in regional Western Australia; where other States and Territories do recognise hospital-based GPs as specialists, we see where this practice leads to success – for example, the Queensland Rural Generalist Pathway has adequate salary and access to the necessary training posts.

Where these practitioners are specifically sought over other specialists, we call on the WA Government and WA Health to properly recognise their skills and experience and pay them accordingly.

GP specialists are the backbone of many rural hospitals. Their work is no less challenging and their contribution no less valuable than other specialists who inhabit the large hospitals in regional centres.

So, we continue the fight on this, with the next avenue for change being via the upcoming negotiations for a new WA Health/AMA (WA) Industrial Agreement.

WA doctors can access advice on the outcome of the case and how it affects their salary, and request advice and representation, by completing the IR Enquiry Form.