On Thursday 14 February, College President Dr Sam Murton and acting CE Terina Moke met with the National Party’s Health Spokesperson Michael Woodhouse and his Health Select Committee colleagues Dr Shane Reti, Nicky Wagner and Tim Macindoe.

The conversation covered a broad range of issues, with a particular focus on servicing rural communities. Sam talked about the importance of giving young doctors a chance to experience rural medical work, and she explained the benefits and difficulties arising from the way Community Based Attachments are currently structured.

“Getting doctors out of the hospitals and into the community helps them understand the value of primary care, and in my experience they love meeting real people, rather than ‘patients in their pjs’,” she says. 

Shane Reti was curious to hear how GPs are coping with the increased demand for mental health consults. As a practicing GP himself, he has noticed a significant increase in this type of work and he admits the 15 minute appointment time doesn’t suit these patients.

Sam shared her personal experience saying her practice employs a social worker to whom her GP colleagues refer patients as required. She suggested having teams of appropriately skilled people on staff was logical, as it enables each professional, including the GPs, to work at the top of their scope. 

“There are lots of examples of this type of interprofessional collaboration happening in practices across the country. The ability to put teams together that are specifically designed to meet the needs of the local population isn’t new, but I’d like to see it become more common,” she says. 

“This isn’t always possible in smaller communities, but it’s something we need to try and support. We need a health system that enables this.”

The discussion then shifted to how more services could be moved from the hospital setting into the community, in a way that was financially viable and suitable for patients.

Overall it was a constructive meeting, and both parties agreed to keep the lines of communication open.