The Death of General Practice

An article in the Sydney Morning Herald on May 1st, 2017 has raised significant concerns around the fate of general practice in Australia. A new report from the University of Melbourne has seen a reduction in job satisfaction, problems with work/life balance and an increase in corporate ownership of medical practices.

These factors combined with a significant reduction in income because of bulk billing and the number of people in Australia on some form of welfare, along with very long hours worked, the pressure to push patients through quickly and not to mention the constant threat of litigation, has seen doctors leaving general practice in droves and many younger doctors opting for speciality training, where the rewards are greater and the work is often more interesting.

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It is a bizarre notion in our society where the public will pay tradesmen a significant fee (and I’m not saying tradesmen aren’t skilled and do not do a good job), which is typically much more than a general practitioner who has had years of training with ongoing demands for continuing medical education and I would suggest, a much more stressful, demanding job. If the general practitioner dares not to bulk bill and actually charge what I would suggest they are worth or heaven forbid, the Government suggests a seven dollar co-payment, there is this ridiculous outcry from the public and the usual nonsense from the socialist left.

I’m a specialist and I’m not complaining about my lot but I’m defending my pathetically remunerated, very dedicated, hard-working colleagues in general practice.

We have already witnessed over the last few decades the death of the general physician leaving most patients with multiple, complex medical issues having, at times, up to 5 specialists managing their (so-called) health, but better stated, diseases. But, if we lose high-quality general practitioners because of all of the above issues, I can promise you the health of our nation will drastically suffer.

Until general practitioners are adequately rewarded for providing high-quality care, which includes better pay for longer consultations, more focus on preventive health strategies and more autonomy in the management of their own practice by cutting the ridiculous bureaucratic red tape, we will continue to see the current exodus from what was once (and still is in certain practices) a vital service.