I need time off work because I have respiratory infection symptoms OR have been tested for COVID-19 and need to self-isolate OR have been confirmed to have COVID-19 and need to self isolate.
AGPT registrars are entitled to 5 days of paid sick leave and 2 weeks of paid annual leave (or full time equivalent) per six month term under the NTCER. It is important to know that the 5 days of paid sick leave per six months is available to both full time and part time registrars. Under the NTCER you do not need to wait to accrue sick leave and are entitled to an advance of 38 hours paid personal leave for each 6 month term upon commencement of the term. If you are working with the same employer for a full 12 months then you can negotiate to have the full advance of 76 hours paid personal leave allowable for the full 12 months upon commencement to help cover any period of sick leave required for COVID-19 reasons. Any leave above and beyond this, is at the discretion of the employer.
If you have run out of sick leave and annual leave (or alternatively are not wanting to use annual leave for this reason) then you will be eligible to access category 1 leave. Whilst category 1 leave does not contribute to training time it will not add to your training time caps. Please liaise with your training post and RTO to arrange any leave and complete any necessary leave forms.
Can GP trainees in self-isolation continue to work through teleconsulting?
For AGPT registrars, approval is required from the trainee’s RTO.
What happens if a supervisor has to take time off from work due to COVID19 related issues?
If an AGPT supervisor self-isolates, the supervisor or practice should inform the relevant RTO as soon as possible and ensure that any registrars under their supervision continue to receive the required supervision. If the practice has not done this then please speak with your practice or contact your RTO directly.
I am on the rural stream but had planned to move to a metro area post fellowship, can I still go?
You will need to remain on the rural stream until you have completed your Fellowship.
I am really confused about the practice diversity requirements. Can you please explain what will happen if I can’t move practices?
The aim of the requirement is to ensure that you have a diverse general practice training experience with exposure to a broad range of presentations, populations and patient demographics. Additionally, you should ideally be exposed to a variety of supervisors as well as different practice management systems. If you can’t move practice as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic then your training organisation can work with you to find alternative ways to demonstrate that you have met these requirements. This could be by doing a visit to another practice and writing a reflective essay on how the business model and practice systems were different to what you have already experienced, and what you have learned from this. Any alternatives need to be prospectively discussed and approved by your training organisation. This guidance document might be useful if you are looking for more information.
What will the RACGP recognise as training if I do different work during the COVID-19 pandemic?
We acknowledge that training placements may change for registrars due to several factors and many of which could be out of the registrar's control. Registrars may be asked to work in fever clinics or in essential services in the hospital. The RACGP has been working with RTOs to provide clear guidance about what can be recognised for training time. We acknowledge that there is a need to find flexible solutions to your situations whilst balancing the need to ensure that you progress to fellowship standards.
If you are facing a change in your circumstances to your currently approved training placement then we encourage you to make contact with your training organisation as soon as possible to discuss the suitability of different work for counting towards training. It is important to note that any contractual arrangements with your current training practice do need to be met. It is important also that any desired placement options have adequate supervision commensurate with your level of training.
If you are enrolled in the FARGP and your ARST is being impacted then this can be discussed with your training organisation and the Rural Censor. The same comments about needing suitable supervision apply for the FARGP.
Your training organisation will be able to work with you to minimise the disruption to training as much as possible.
What happens if I end up a couple of training weeks short of exam eligibility because I needed to take time off during COVID-19? Can I still sit my exams as planned?
To be eligible to sit your exams as an AGPT registrar you need to have completed 2 years of training including all of GPT1 and GPT2. As an RVTS registrar you need to have completed 12 months of GP terms. As a special COVID-19 related allowance, if you are slightly short of this because of COVID-19 related disruptions to your training, you will be allowed to enrol in and sit your exams, as long as your RTO or RVTS agree that you are ready to sit.
The special policy provision is:
Where a registrar's completion of term date:
- is delayed as a result of previously approved COVID-related allowances which have not been counted as training; and
- falls within 28 calendar days beyond the scheduled date of the AKT;
an exemption will be granted to allow the registrar to sit the examination, if supported by the registrar's Regional Training Organisation.
Previously approved COVID-19 related allowances include additional sick or carer's leave taken as category 1 leave, or where category 2 leave is taken for COVID-19-related reasons during the COVID-19 pandemic.
The date I am due to complete my training requirements is going to be delayed because of COVID-19? What can be done about this?
We appreciate that some registrars will end up completing their training requirements later than anticipated due to COVID-19 disruptions including COVID-19 related leave, training time extensions and exam postponements.
While delays to completion of training dates will be unavoidable for many, the RACGP and TOs will work with you to minimise the impact of these delays, while maintaining the integrity and standards of the training program.
If you take additional COVID-19 related leave and have special consideration needs for the expedition of Fellowship, we may be able to facilitate this.
The special policy provision is:
Where a registrar’s completion of training date:
- is delayed as a result of previously approved COVID-related allowances which have not been counted as training; and has
- special consideration needs for provider number related or employment issues;
then sign-off of completion of training can be up to 28 calendar days early, at the discretion of the RACGP.
Previously approved COVID-19 related allowances include additional sick or carer's leave taken as category 1 leave, or where category 2 leave is taken for COVID-19-related reasons during the COVID-19 pandemic;
How does the AGPT Program COVID-19 Support Policy 2020 apply to training impacts?
On the 15th May, 2020 the AGPT Program COVID-19 Support Policy 2020 was announced. This policy has been devised jointly with Department of Health with feedback from major stakeholders in order to support registrars enrolled in the AGPT program during the COVID-19 pandemic. The below FAQs help to understand some of the implications of this policy and how it may be relevant to you.
Where can I find the policy?
A copy of this policy can be downloaded here.
How long is the policy effective for?
The policy came into effect on 15 May 2020 and will be periodically reviewed as the COVID-19 pandemic unfolds. Registrars will be able to request support under the policy whilst they continue to be affected by COVID-19.
The policy is active from 15 May 2020. Can the provisions be retrospectively applied where needed?
Yes, RTOs and the RACGP are able to backdate support for registrars under the policy as they see fit. The policy does not specify a particular date to which the supports can be backdated; such will be determined on a case-by-case basis.
The policy is time limited. When are the review and end dates?
There are no currently scheduled review or end dates for the AGPT COVID-19 Support Policy. The Department of Health, in collaboration with the GP Colleges, will review the policy when deemed necessary based on any stakeholder feedback received, and as the socio-legal environment changes in response to the pandemic, to ensure that the policy continues to support registrars as intended.
Where do I send my application for support under the AGPT COVID-19 Support Policy?
Applications for leave, extensions of training time, transfers between RTOs and training regions, and exceptions to training time obligations go to your RTO at first instance. Please talk to your RTO for further information.
Applications for pathway transfers, and exceptions to training location obligations go to the RACGP via email to AGPTadmin@racgp.org.au.
Who within the RACGP may I contact if I have further questions about this policy?
Please email Julie-Anne Pho, Senior Policy Advisor, at firstname.lastname@example.org.
COVID-19 Extensions of Training Time:
My clinical practice has narrowed in scope and I am no longer undertaking the full scope of general practice. What options do I have available to me?
RACGP acknowledges that a broad scope of practice is important for GPs in training in order to ensure you progress to fellowship standards. COVID-19 may have impacted scope of practice if a registrar has needed to change duties, change roles or had a reduction in patient numbers or variety of presentations. If you are concerned that your scope of practice has significantly narrowed as a result of COVID-19 then it is important that you contact your RTO as soon as possible to discuss your options. A decision around the impact of narrowed scope on training will need to look at the full picture of your training progression to date including training stage, assessment status, supervisor input and ECT visit feedback. If you and your RTO decide that your training progression is significantly impacted by the reduced scope then under the AGPT COVID-19 Support Policy you will be eligible for COVID-19 extension of training time.
What will happen if I run out of training time as a result of the exams being postponed or not being ready to sit exams?
Registrars unable to undertake their exams directly due to COVID-19, either due to the exams being postponed or the registrar being unable to prepare for them, will be eligible for a COVID-19 extension of training time. Please contact your RTO to discuss.
How long will a COVID-19 extension of training time last?
Up to 6 calendar months can be approved by your RTO with further extensions beyond the initial six months needing RACGP approval.
What evidence do I need to provide to support my request for a COVID-19 extension of training?
There is no application pro forma, but the standard AGPT forms may be used if desired. Supporting documentation confirming that the request is required due to the impact of COVID-19 will be required. Registrars are encouraged to discuss specific documentation requirements with their RTO and the RACGP.
How will a COVID-19 extension of training time impact my training time cap?
It is important to know that an extension of training time under this policy will not count towards training time caps.
If I am granted an extension of training time under this policy, will I remain eligible for a Medicare provider number?
Yes, you will be able to continue to work during an extension of training time and have access to your Medicare provider number.
What will happen if I obtain a COVID-19 extension of training but then I feel my training experience during this time was in fact sufficient to progress my training?
Typically, any work done during a COVID-19 extension of training time will not count towards active training. However, it may be possible to retrospectively count this towards training if relevant evidence and supporting documentation can be provided to show that there was in fact sufficiently broad enough scope of practice. This is the first time that this retrospective clause has been included and gives flexibility to individual situations where circumstances may change after the initial approval is given. Relevant evidence and supporting documentation may include patient logs, review of numbers and types of presentations and supervisor feedback.
What is the difference between applying for a COVID-19 extension of training time, standard extension of training time, and extension of training time for assessment purposes in non-extenuating circumstances?
If your training progression is affected by COVID-19 (eg because the Fellowship exams have been postponed until after you have run out of training time) your best option is to apply for a COVID-19 extension. A COVID-19 extension will not count towards your training time cap or allowances for standard extensions of training time.
If your training progression is not directly affected by COVID-19, you should instead apply for a standard extension of training time in line with the AGPT Program Extension of Training Time Policy 2020. If you have already utilised all of your extension allowances, you may apply for an extension of training time for assessment purposes in non-extenuating circumstances in line with the same policy.
I am an AGPT registrar who has completed all of my training time but has to wait for the postponed exams. Will I still need to be employed under the NTCER and what will the implications be on my remuneration of having to extend my training?
You will still need to employed as a registrar until you Fellow. The NTCER stipulates minimum remuneration rates. You can negotiate higher rates with your practice.
As a result of COVID-19, I need to move interstate or to a different region. What options do I have available to me in regards to my training on the AGPT Program?
Under the COVID-19 Support Policy you may be eligible for a transfer between RTOs and / or training region as long as the reason for your transfer is due to the impacts of COVID-19. It is important that if you feel you may need to move RTOs or training regions that you talk to your RTO as soon as possible. You will need to provide supporting documentation to your RTO for them to support your application.
In what circumstances could I apply for a COVID-19 transfer between RTOs?
Registrars are encouraged to apply for a COVID-19 transfer between RTOs if they believe the transfer is required due to the impacts of COVID-19. Examples include:
- The registrar would like to be closer to an immediate family member who has contracted COVID-19 or is particularly isolated due to social restrictions relating to COVID-19;
- The registrar’s immediate family is under particular pressure due to social restrictions relating to COVID-19, they do not have an adequate support network in their current location, and they would like to be closer to their family and friends; and
- There is an identified need for COVID-19 first responders within the requested RTO’s training region and the registrar would like to assist the local communities there.
How difficult will it be to change RTOs?
Requests for transfer between RTOs require the support of both your current RTO and the requested RTO. Your request should be approved if you are able to prove to both RTOs via supporting documentation or evidence that the transfer is required due to the impacts of COVID-19.
The AGPT COVID-19 Support Policy states that transfers will be valid until the end of 2020. What happens if my situation changes in that time and I need to stay?
If a further transfer is required because you are still affected by COVID-19, you may submit a request for a further transfer to your RTO (for transfers between RTOs and training regions) or to the RACGP (for transfers between pathways). If you need to stay in the location to which you have transferred for reasons unrelated to COVID-19, you may submit a request for transfer in line with the AGPT Program Transfer Policy 2020. This will be considered by your RTO (for transfers between RTOs and training regions) or by the RACGP (for transfers between pathways).
I am currently on a temporary transfer between training regions. Given that the Fellowship exams have been postponed anyway, am I able to stay in my current location for a while longer?
Please discuss your options with your RTO. With your RTO’s support, the RACGP may grant an extension to your temporary transfer under the COVID-19 Support Policy if the reason for your transfer extension is a result of COVID-19. If the transfer is not strictly required due to the impacts of COVID-19, you may still request a transfer in line with the AGPT Program Transfer Policy 2020.
Training time obligations
Am I able to change from full time to part time training as a result of COVID-19?
The RACGP acknowledges that there are many reasons that a registrar may wish to change their full-time equivalent training status as a result of COVID-19. Under the COVID-19 Support Policy, this will be approved if supported by your RTO. If possible, please apply in writing to your RTO at least five business days before you propose to commence training at less than 1.0 FTE. If dropping to part time training you will still need to comply with the RACGP’s minimum part time requirements. This includes a minimum 14.5 hour working week over a minimum of two days per week, of which a minimum of 10.5 hours must be in rostered, patient consultation time undertaking general practice activities.
The policy states that I need RTO approval first before changing to part time, but my practice has asked me to change to part time effective immediately. What happens now?
Where possible, registrars are asked to seek RTO approval to change their training time obligations at least five business days before they propose to, or are required to change to part time. We accept that this is not always possible. Registrars are urged to seek RTO approval as soon as possible, and accepted changes to your training time obligations may be applied retrospectively.
Right of appeal
What happens if my RTO denies my request for COVID-19 support?
If your RTO rejects your request (ie because it is found that your request is not in direct relation to COVID-19), you may alternatively apply for support via the standard suite of AGPT Program Policies, ie:
Registrars are encouraged to first seek alternative support as per the above. There is also an option for appeal to the RACGP in line with the AGPT Program Appeals Policy 2020. The registrar must first exhaust all internal appeal and dispute resolution mechanisms with their RTO. For further information, please contact the RACGP at AGPTadmin@racgp.org.au.