Conversations with the Board in Newcastle February 2021

We have continued our Conversations with the Board events, providing members with an opportunity to have informal and open discussions with each other and their College Board.

The Board held its first virtual Conversations with the Board event with members from the Hunter New England (HNE)/Newcastle area on Wednesday 24 February. We would like to thank the members who joined us for an open and frank discussion.

Below are some highlights from the discussions held.

Professor John Wilson AM
RACP President

The Board acknowledged the tragic death of Dr Willem Henskens and offered condolences to Dr Henskens’ family and friends. It was noted Dr Henskens was a much-loved colleague, friend, and trainee, and a talented young trainee with a lot to offer his community and the field of medicine.

The Board spoke to the College’s continued efforts to improve structures and cultures in order to prevent tragedies like this from happening. Members were encouraged to speak up and raise issues as they arise so that they can receive the necessary support they require. Our College is here to support members who are experiencing difficulties.

The Board acknowledged this as an opportunity to reflect on who we are as a College and what it means to be a physician, as well as to look at how the way we support each other and our members — especially our trainees — can be improved. As a College, we have a responsibility to ensure the safety of our trainees and Fellows. We need to look out for each other and have each other’s health and wellbeing in mind.

Some members present shared observations of systemic poor behaviour they had observed or experienced in the health system. The importance of working together to change unhealthy work cultures and environments was discussed, as well as ways to improve how we support our members, such as through our physician health and wellbeing strategies.

The Board reminded members that our Employee Assistance Program (EAP), provided by Converge International, is available for any trainees or Fellows who need or are seeking independent support. You can make an appointment or speak directly with a consultant by calling 1300 687 327 (Australia) or 0800 666 367 (New Zealand). All calls are confidential.

The College Policy and Advocacy Council (CPAC) and the diversity of opinions regarding some of our College’s policies and advocacy positions were discussed. Members were reminded that CPAC is the peak body that determines key policy priorities and activities for the College and is currently looking at ways to improve dialogue with members about College policy and advocacy activity. CPAC and other College bodies continue to work to achieve diversity of ideas on our College Bodies. The Board encouraged members to get involved with their College to ensure their voice is heard and that they participate in the decision-making process. Opportunities to be involved in various College initiatives and College bodies are available on Expressions of Interest.

The Board heard about members’ concern regarding the maldistribution of trainees in the HNE/Newcastle area. Although there are no guidelines regarding supervisor to trainee ratio, the College is committed to looking at the physician workforce in regional and rural areas. The College Council is in the process of establishing the Regional and Rural Physician Working Group, which will be tasked with developing a strategy that the College can use to advocate for change and guide College activities to support equitable health outcomes for Australians and New Zealanders living in regional, rural, or remote locations. The Working Group will report to the College Council and work will commence once the Working Group is finalised.

The Board expressed thanks to those members present for joining the discussion and encouraged members to continue their interactions with the College on these complex matters.

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