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COVID-19

With the rapidly changing nature of coronavirus (COVID-19), we have compiled a series of resources to support you during this time.

WAGPET

All education with WAGPET is now provided virtually. External Clinical Teaching visits can still occur in the practice if both the ECT visitor and the practice support this, otherwise, we will set up a webcam video-link to make this happen. Below is instructions for arranging video-link ECT visits and patient consent forms required for the visits.

Instructions on how to arrange a video-link ECT visit
Patient consent form for video-link ECT visits

In conjunction with both colleges, we are considering all innovative, flexible and adaptive ways for practices and supervisors to continue to fulfil their supervision and training requirements. Approval for alternative arrangements is required and we hope to make this process as streamlined as possible. We have created the following forms to help you with these alternative models of teaching and supervision and remote supervision for registrars using telehealth from home:

College resources

ACRRM and RACGP have put together FAQs and policy updates for registrars and supervisors in light of the impact of COVID-19 on GP vocational training. Click the links below to access these documents.

ACRRM: COVID-19 impacts on education and training
RACGP: COVID-19 impacts on education and training
RACGP: Training policies addendum

Do you have questions about telehealth consultations? ACRRM and RACGP have created the following resources for you:

Other resources

Webinar recordings

WAGPET - Impacts of COVID-19 on GP vocational training
WAGPET and AMA WA - Understanding employment rights
ACRRM - Getting started with Telehealth
RACGP WA, Rural Health West and WAPHA - Telehealth in response to COVID-19
WAGPET - Telehealth
WAGPET - COVID-19 Impacts on ECT visits 
WAGPET and GPSA - Innovation through COVID-19 Disruption 
WAGPET, AMA WA - GP beyond COVID-19 

Frequently asked questions (updated 9 April 2020)

COVID-19 testing and self-isolation

Q: The new testing criteria states that fever or respiratory symptoms are enough for testing in a healthcare worker. With the cold and flu season coming up, many of us could have symptoms at some point. If we meet criteria, do we have to present for testing or can we use judgement?
A: It is recommended that you present for testing. It is also wise to take precautionary measures such as receiving the flu vaccination. We suggest you and your patients receive the vaccination as soon as possible.

Q: What happens if more than the allowed sick leave is used due to isolation?
A: Firstly, it depends on the employment entitlements of the registrar within the practice and how much leave the registrar has or does not have. Secondly, it depends on the types of leave available to you during the training program. If you become unwell due to coronavirus, you will be placed on Category 1 leave from the AGPT program. If you are required to self-isolate, you can either be placed on category 2 leave or conduct telehealth services from home.

Q: What, if any, are the implications to training in the instance of needing to self-isolate for 14 days?
A: Registrar can investigate the options of providing telehealth from home during this time. This will require a WAGPET-approved remote supervision model. If telehealth is not possible, registrars can concentrate on self-directed learning for a two-week period and the RACGP are happy for this time to count towards training.

Q: If a supervisor is required to self-isolate for up to 14 days, can registrars work solely with phone support?
A: Yes, they can. However, WAGPET needs to be notified and the arrangements recorded in an approval form for alternative models of teaching and supervision.

Q: If a registrar is in self-isolation, are they able to do phone consultations under the new MBS item numbers and will phone advice only from supervisors suffice?
A: Yes, they can. However, a remote supervision model needs to be approved by WAGPET. 

Q: If a registrar is unable to work at the practice due to their personal risk of contracting COVID-19, how does this affect their training?
A: The registrar has the following options:

  • take Category 2 leave which will not count toward their training time cap
  • investigate providing telehealth consultations from the practice
  • investigate providing telehealth consultations from home with a WAGPET-approved remote supervision model.
Exams

Q: Now that the RACGP exams have been postponed, how does this affect my training?
A: All registrars who require additional time in training to complete their delayed assessments will be granted extensions. Provider numbers will be continued in their accredited training facilities. WAGPET is working with practices who may have capacity problems due to a delay in their registrars fellowing.

Q: For registrars who received their KFP results with the intention of sitting the rescheduled OSCE in November, do we need to be looking at organising placement options for next year in case we have to re-sit exams?
A: Yes, we will be opening capacity and placements for 2021 shortly. Everyone who is going to be affected by the delay in exams will be given an extension for assessment term so you can continue your training. Please work with your program training advisor and regional medical educator to find a suitable placement or remain in the practice you’re in if that’s possible.

Q: For GPT2/PRRT2 trainees due to sit written exams in July, will there be the option to join the 2020.1 November OSCE if the exams proceed as planned in September?
A: This is up to the college and the capacity that the college has to run their OSCE exam. We are currently unable to answer this question for you. We do not expect that you will be able to.

Hospital rotations

Q: Can registrars currently work across general practice and another training facility such as a hospital?
A: Yes, they can. If they choose to do this full-time, we are requesting all registrars to discuss this with their practice in advance before they make any commitment to a hospital. We are also asking them to consider the impact of COVID-19 on general practice and where they are needed most.

Q: What happens if staff at the practice express concern regarding a registrar working at another training facility or a hospital?
A: The situation needs to be discussed with the supervisor and if it cannot be resolved the registrar may have to consider staying with general practice or taking leave and working at the hospital.

Q: Can a registrar work extra shifts in the hospital to assist their colleagues?
A: Yes, they can. We are encouraging them to discuss this with their supervisor so they are aware and keeping in mind the registrar’s self care. This additional work can’t be counted towards training time. 

Q: If my hospital rotations are changed for this year, will it affect my ability to start in a GP term in 2021?
A: It may, if you miss out on a core term. Please contact WAGPET if you think this will affect you. We will be working with everyone to ensure minimal disruption to their training plans.    

Q: For those of us in our hospital year, what is the implication of completing the CFEP?
A: We will be communicating to everyone about this shortly. We are planning to delay you having to do your CFEP because we understand that this might cause some additional stress on you in the hospital system and on the hospital system itself.
At this stage, the plan is to delay until June.  

Placements

Q: Have allowances been made for registrars if they have reduced patient numbers but their working hours have not changed?
A: We have spoken to the colleges and everyone is aware that reduced patient numbers are affecting a lot of GP registrars across the country. The aim isn’t to penalise anyone if patient numbers are reduced. We may be able to facilitate a placement change, but we would need to discuss with your current facility first.

Q: Is there any change to applying for placements in 2021?
A: WAGPET is not planning on altering any placement changes that are already in the system. The MyMatch process is about to commence for 2021. However, we need to take into consideration any practices and their change in capacity due to the delay of fellowship exams. For example, those who were expecting to have fellowed registrars leave and have space open for a GPT1/PRRT1 registrar.

Q: If a practice is forced to close due to the virus, do registrars still get paid?
A: This is dependent on the practice and the registrar’s employment arrangements. If the closure is permanent, WAGPET will work to facilitate a placement change as soon as possible. More information is available on the Fair Work website. 

Q: What options are available to registrars who are being asked to see suspected symptomatic COVID-19 cases and the practice does not have appropriate PPE?
A: A suspected COVID-19 case needs to be directed to a COVID clinic. If someone has a respiratory illness with no known COVID exposure, they need to talk to their supervisor about their concerns. They need to see if they can consult with patients in their car or via telehealth.

Q: If patient numbers at a practice have dropped dramatically and the practice is looking at significantly reducing the registrar’s consulting hours, what does this mean for them and their full-time consulting requirements?
A: All registrars are asked to please contact WAGPET and provide us with their specific details and we will see what we can do and how it may affect their training.

Q: If my practice tells me I have to reduce my hours to part-time, am I able to negotiate what hours?
A: Yes, we encourage all registrars to negotiate their working hours with a minimum of 19 hours.

Q: If my practice asks me to reduce my hours to part-time, am I eligible for jobseeker payments?
A: All employees and employers will need to go through an eligibility check to see if they qualify for the jobseeker payments. It is our understanding that registrars do qualify for the payment, however, you will need to apply for the payment online via the ATO website. There is also great fact sheets on the Practice Assist and the Australian Government website:

COVID-19: Financial Support Measures for General Practices
Jobkeeper Payment: Information for Employers

Q: What happens if the practice can't afford to keep me?
A: WAGPET and your employer will work with you and what your options will be. However, a few possible options include applying for Jobseeker payments, working at another practice, working in hospital or take Category 2 or COVID-19 leave.

Q: If I don’t wish to work in the practice during COVID-19, what are my options?
A: There are multiple options however, we will assess them case by case. Some of the options may include telehealth consultations from home, annual leave, Category 2 or COVID-19 leave or working in a hospital. You can discuss your options with your program training advisor.

Q: Can I work across two practices if I’m not seeing enough patients?
A: If your current practice is happy with this and your second practice has capacity, we would be happy to look into this. Bearing in mind, Medicare is taking 15 business days to process provider numbers and you won’t be able to work at the second practice until you have a valid provider number.

Telehealth

Q: What are the parameters for telehealth? For example, does the consultation have to be via video or does a telephone conversation suffice?
A: Telehealth can be via video or phone. ACRRM, RACGP and WAGPET have hosted webinars to address this as well. Click the links below to watch the webinars:

ACRRM - Getting started with telehealth
RACGP - Medicare item numbers and telehealth constructions
WAGPET - Impacts of COVID-19 on GP training

Q: What is the best action to take for a registrar who has their video supervisor assessment due but their practice is mostly doing phone and carpark consults?
A: A registrar is able to video themselves conducting a telehealth consultation or a consultation with a patient in the car park. If that is not possible in the current climate and a supervisor has the availability to conduct direct observation and provide feedback, that would suffice. Alternatively, the assessment may be delayed if needed. Please discuss this with your program training advisor or regional medical educator first.


 

Training implications

Q: I am not sure how the COVID situation will affect my training. Can I delay my RPL application?
A: The RACGP will be making a statement about RPL soon, however, we are considering the individual circumstances of each registrar and working towards flexibility. We do not expect that a registrar will be penalised if an RPL application is submitted late because of COVID-19.   

Q: What are the implications for registrars who were expecting to fellow mid 2020 and have already put plans in motion to move to a new practice?
A: If the registrar has already planned to move practices for their Extension Awaiting Fellowship term or post fellowship, WAGPET advises that they continue with the move. This is based on the assumption that both practices are aware and accept the move. However, the term in the new practice will be considered an Extension for Assessment term, until fellowship exams have been sat and passed.

Q: Considering the impact of the shutdown of schools and lessening patient loads at practices, will there be any flexibility in pathway changes from the RACGP rural pathway to the general pathway?
A: A pathway change will be considered on a case-by-case basis once all other options have been explored. We recommend registrars contact their program training advisor and put their situation in writing so we can put it forward to the RACGP and AGPT. At this point in time, there have been no changes to the allocated number of registrars on the rural or general pathway and the policy requirements for a pathway change have remained the same.

Travel bans

Q: Are registrars who drive in and drive out exempt from the current government travel restrictions?
A: Yes, you are and WAGPET will provide a letter for any registrar who requires this. You may get a letter from your practice as well. We recommend that you discuss the situation with your practice and consider relocating to the practice region if possible. 

Q: Is it acceptable for a registrar who drives in and drives out of a region to just stay in Perth and do telehealth from home?
A: WAGPET would not support this as the best option for yourself, your practice or your training particularly if the situation continues for a long period of time. Pleaseiscuss the situation with your practice first. If the situation cannot be resolved, you may have to consider relocation to the region or taking Category 2 leave from training. Please note that each case will be considered individually.