Many GP practices across Australia are suffering from a workforce deficit, and all of them are at some stage of their operations struggling hard to attract and retain GPs. This shortage of doctors mostly applies to regional and rural areas, but can at times apply to metro areas, as well.
The sharp contrast between the demand and supply in the healthcare labour market has gotten so serious that even the Australian Government tries to incentivise overseas doctors into coming to Australia through a number of programs and visa benefits.
Medical practices, too, also resort to offering a number of incentives for doctors (relocation subsidies, accommodation subsidies, paid training program fees etc.) and offering them a variety of flexible working arrangements (flexible rosters, short-term locum arrangements, opened-ended contracts and similar).
As a result, this has created diverse expectations among the job candidates. These expectations are sometime realistic, and sometimes not so much.
While these incentives may make the workforce somewhat happier, oftentimes they’re not financially viable for the practices.
To reconcile the expectations of both practices and job seekers and help make your hiring decisions easier, we’ve come up with a few tips:
Sit down with your accountant and see if it is feasible for your practice to hire locum doctors at a set hourly rate, and offer them other incentives (such as vehicle, accommodation and travel).
You may be desperate to fill out a period without a GP coverage at your practice and that way retain your patient base, but what if the costs of having a locum are exceeding the benefits?
You also need to be mindful of costs of recruitment, added on top of what you will pay for the locum doctors’ wages and any additional costs (travel, vehicle hire, accommodation).
You will normally be informed of the recruitment fees by your recruiters upfront and in writing, and you will be required to sign legally-binding agreements with both doctor and recruitment agency, prior to hiring.
It is considered a bad business etiquette to hire a locum, and later complain of unanticipated costs or being caught unawares. If you can break even at the end of the locum, some practices still consider that a success, not a failure. However, if you end up out of pocket, you cannot blame anyone for omission to estimate and make projections.
You can’t expect locum doctors to work for less than the agreed rate just because you cannot afford their pay and the recruitment fees, and vice versa.
Also, bear in mind the legal and financial repercussions of delayed payment or non-payment of your obligations towards doctors and recruiters. Delayed payment can result in interest rate charges, and non-payment can result in a judgement against your company.
At the end of the day, everyone has got their financial interest at heart, as well, and they expect to be remunerated for their work accordingly.
Discuss with your accountant is it viable for your practice to hire a GP and offer them financial incentives or accommodation. Add to the costs also the recruitment costs and try to determine how long of a commitment you will need from a GP to be able to recoup the money you invested into recruiting them.
Try to negotiate with the doctor to commit for as long as it takes to break even. Increasing number of practices are now inserting clauses in their service agreements that hold doctors liable to them for part of the recruitment costs, should they leave prior to the end of contracts.
What you absolutely cannot do is to hire a doctor under one contract and later change the terms, without both parties agreeing to the proposed changes.
The process of hiring is becoming more and more complicated in the recent years. There are compliance procedures that need to be followed, doctors need not only be suitably qualified, experienced, have good communications skills and be personable, but also need to be proficient in different types of medical software for patient management, provide a number of certifications, be members of all relevant professional organisations, be enrolled onto relevant programs, have up-to-date medical indemnity policies and their registration with the Medical Board has to show there are in good standing.
With the rise of the digital media, tele-health and e-health records, there is another dimension added to the hiring process and human resource management that ought to be considered.
With overseas trained doctors, the paperwork is often so extensive and the process is so disjointed that it has to be handled by several different government agencies (Immigration, medical bodies, Medicare, training programs etc.) as well as private consultant firms and recruitment agencies.
Finding an expert one-stop shop who can provide solid advice on the steps in the process (and the costs involved!) is time and cost-effective. If you can find an experienced agency like Ozhealth, who can both advise you and handle all the paperwork, needless to say – it will save you a lot of headache!
Whether you source your own job candidates, or use a recruitment agency, the selection process usually involves:
However, in order to find a perfect match for the job and the workplace, you have to see the picture from the job candidate’s angle.
For majority of the GP jobseekers nowadays, there is safety in numbers. They will normally prefer large group over the solo, or small practices; otherwise, they will want the smaller practices to be well-established and patient base awaiting them from the outset.
They are attracted by generous salary packages and incentives that will often be offered by large medical groups, and they also want less responsibilities and risk that come with smaller or newly-established practices.
The only times when smaller practice will have an advantage over a large one will be when they are situated in rural areas, and GPs who haven’t obtained their fellowship yet, and are affected by their moratorium have to go to work rural.
Doctors at the advanced stage of their career will want less and less long-term commitments, unless they work at their own practice and will often opt for locum work exclusively, which allows them the freedom to cease work at a short, or no notice.
Bottom line is: Younger and older doctors alike don’t see their careers as the core of their existence; they want more time to spend with family and friends, and to pursue their hobbies.
With that in mind, we’ve created a list of factors that normally influence doctors’ decisions about job offers:
Most important thing, before interviewing and making job offers, is to review what you’re looking for in a new GP. When you and your partner/s decided that hiring an additional GP would be financially viable, you probably talked about the skills you’d want that person to bring to the practice. Check if their special interests correspond to the demands of your patient demographics.
Take a critical look at each CV, look for any inaccuracies, misspelled words or typos in the CV. If he/she has not taken care in preparing their CV, you might wonder how cautious he/she is in taking notes of their consultations with patients.
Note if candidate’s telephone manner is what you would want your patients and colleagues to hear when they call your practice.
What are the candidate’s requirements for the position? Do their expectations match what you have in mind? How flexible is the candidate?
Once you’ve gathered information from the telephone interviews, invite them for face-to-face interviews. You may want to rule out any candidates who voiced too many demands in the initial chat; this could mean they would be difficult to please, and inflexible. Your first impressions are important. After all, your staff and the patients will also base their opinion on their first impression.
Hold the interviews in a setting that is comfortable and free from interruptions by staff and patients, and allow adequate time for a conversation. Make sure you address the most important aspect of the position: working hours, rate of pay, leave, notice period, income earning potential, type of medicine practiced at your clinic. Mentally develop a personality profile of the candidate by rating their: appearance, communications skills, career goals/ their ambition and drives, are they prone to risk or averse to risk, are they a leader or a follower, are they civic-minded and involved in their community as volunteers?
Once you are satisfied that a doctor’s and practice’s goals align, you will want to make them a job offer. There are a few things to bear in mind:
Once the contracts are amended to the mutual satisfaction, and both parties have signed, you can relax and start preparing for the next chapter – doing the logistics for new doctor’s commencement at the practice. We will write more about that on our blog, so stay tuned.
Written by: Zorica Newman
Not all the practices are created equal, and while taking some general advice and industry standards on board, you should always be mindful of your specific circumstances before you start hiring process.