When I was preparing this session I thought I’d start by telling a joke:
Five doctors went duck hunting one day. Included in the group were a general practitioner, a pediatrician, a psychiatrist, a surgeon and a pathologist.
After a while, a bird came winging overhead. The first to react was the GP who raised his shotgun, but then hesitated. “I’m not quite sure it’s a duck,” he said, “I think that I will have to get a second opinion.” And of course by that time, the bird was long gone.
Then another bird appeared in the sky. This time, the paediatrician drew a bead on it. He too, however, was unsure if it was really a duck in his sights and besides, it might have babies. “I’ll have to do some more investigations,” he muttered, as the creature made good its escape.
Next to spy a bird was the sharp-eyed psychiatrist. Shotgun shouldered, he was more certain of his intended prey’s identity. “Now, I know it’s a duck, but does it know it’s a duck?” The fortunate bird disappeared while the fellow wrestled with this dilemma.
Finally, a fourth fowl sped past and this time the surgeon’s weapon pointed skywards. BOOM!!
The surgeon lowered his smoking gun and turned to the pathologist beside him and said: “Go see if that was a duck, will you?”
The tribal jungle
Two years ago our keynote speaker was the amazing Dr Victoria Brazil, emergency physician and medical educator from the Gold Coast. She spoke about tribalism in our profession and said:
“I think we actually work in a tribal jungle in healthcare.”
She was right. We make jokes about the characteristics of the other tribes, like I just did, but tribalism is still one of our biggest challenges today. We are concerned about fragmentation in healthcare – but what about the divisions within our own ranks?
Part of what makes general practice attractive is its diversity, but it is also a weakness. Think, for example, of the stereotypical dichotomies: generalists vs partialists, private practice versus corporates, rural versus metropolitan etc.
I’m not saying we should be one big happy family, but why not focus more on what we have in common?
There is hope: participants of groups like United General Practice Australia and, here in Queensland, the GP Alliance, have shown a desire to put aside tribal differences and work towards common goals. This is a start, and initiatives like these must further strengthen the voice of general practice in the near future.
Investing in general practice
With the Federal Budget due to be handed down this coming Tuesday, this weekend also serves as a timely reminder of the RACGP’s advocacy campaign to reverse the freeze on Medicare rebates. As part of our pre-budget submission to the Federal Government, we outlined 4 key strategies that will improve quality-led patient care.
In order to provide quality healthcare services, MBS rebates must be in line with the cost of doing so. More than 80% of the Australian population is seen by GP’s each year but only 8% of Government healthcare spending is allocated to general practice.
New data presented in the flagship report from the National Health Performance Authority released this week, shows that people who do not see a GP have a 30% higher chance of visiting an emergency department.
Investment in primary care will result in long-term health savings and reversing the freeze on MBS indexation is a must. The College will continue to represent our members and lobby the government on this very important issue.
The theme of this RACGP Queensland Conference is ‘the future’. So here’s a challenge for you:
You don’t have to go duck hunting with your colleagues, but what can you do to reduce tribalism?
If you decide to take up this challenge, do one thing, one little thing, and start this weekend while you are amongst your peers.
If we want the future to be different, if we want to see different results, we should do things differently.
Opening speech given at RACGP Queensland’s 59th Clinical Update Weekend: iGP, General Practice into the future. Source joke: Nursing Fun