OLD models for general practice and waning pay conditions for general practitioners are making the choice to become a family doctor less appealing, General Practice Registrars Australia's president warns.
This, coupled with a lack of professional and allied health support in regional areas, are what Antony Bolton said were key factors that need to be addressed in a widespread GP shortage.
Dr Bolton said if medical students were exposed to good regional areas and experiences in training, they were far more likely to consider a career in regional and rural healthcare.
But Dr Bolton said the biggest hurdle was the lure for junior doctors to take up other medical specialties to avoid for better pay and work conditions.
"GPs are not immune from wanting better work-life balance. The old model of a GP on-call for regional are rural areas all the time is not something many are keen for - and that's not just an issue in healthcare," Dr Bolton said.
"...The actual truth is general practice is one of the least flexible specialties. Trainees are delaying families or staying in the hospital system to complete their training.
"...Very rarely are GPs eligible for government parental leave because they have to move around a lot for training."
General Practice Registrars Australia is a national body that supports and advocates for GP trainees and junior doctors.
Dr Bolton said urgent reform was needed to improve employment conditions for general practice registrars so they match hospital-based colleagues.
He said there had been some policy responses from the federal and some state governments but this did not address these major barriers and the number of junior doctors applying to train under the Australian General Practice Training Program was on the decline.
IN OTHER NEWS:
Dr Bolton said Medicare had also not kept with the price of healthcare inflation, whereas in the past this had been comparable to hospital trainees and the loss of hospital entitlements was not as perceived as a big impact.
Ballarat is home to rural clinical schools for University of Melbourne, Deakin University and Sydney-based University of Notre Dame's medical training programs.
Dr Bolton said flexibility and opportunity in career pathways were important.
He said the pandemic had created added stressors on GPs, including a rise in experienced professionals retiring early, and there needed to be more certainty for those considering entering the specialty.
"It is essential that policy makers talk to GPs in training as part of that ongoing discussion," Dr Bolton said. "It has implications for their training, and they should be included in the process."
Sign up for our newsletter to stay up to date.