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After being in operation for 15 months, the RACGP’s PEP Specialist Stream appears to be designed to block overseas trained GPs from working in Australia – even in regional and rural areas.

We continue to see more inefficiencies occurring within the RACGP that are resulting in a reduced supply of GPs for rural jobs and outer metropolitan areas. The situation begs the question, “Why have DPA areas at all if we are not helping practices in those locations recruit GPs”.

“Some GPs are finding the new processes so arduous, that they are reconsidering the decision to move to Australia” says Megan Lewis, Registration Manager at Alecto. “Some formal and informal sources tell us that this is exactly what the Department of Health wants as it will help to curb Medicare spending.”

The new RACGP PEP Specialist Stream is designed to assess the comparability of Overseas Trained GPs and place them in rural and regional areas of Australia, which are in desperate need of GPs.

There are three parts to the PEP pathway, and all have included very long timeframes:

  • Part A – Comparability Assessment to check documentation for Specialist qualifications (up to 30 weeks)
  • Part B – Job Approval to confirm that a practice meets criteria for the program (3-6 weeks)
  • Part C – Provider Number application (8-12 weeks)

Part C of the process involves the RACGP applying for a provider number on behalf of the GP. The process is scheduled to take up to 12 weeks even though a direct application to Medicare could be completed instantly through PRODA, and within a couple of weeks using a manual process.

Applicants need to be onshore in Australia but are unable to work while they wait.

“There is no consideration for the GPs who are in Australia, often with young families, not working or earning an income whilst they wait for this never-ending process – let alone the practices who are in dire need of a GP to provide services to their patients,” says Ms Lewis.

“Given the significant decrease in numbers of applicants to the RACGP and the ease of getting a DPA provider number, it is difficult to imagine why this process is taking so long.”

The RACGP has been unable to comment or respond to concerns about the program. This is reported by GPs who are RACGP members, by practice owners and by GP recruiters trying to support doctors through this pathway.