General practice ownership dilemma

A South Australian study shows older GPs are worried about who will take care of their patients once they retire, while younger doctors are daunted by the demands of ownership but sense their choices are shrinking.

Monash University public health expert Associate Professor Catherine Joyce, who led the FutureGP study, says the trend towards fewer GPs owning practices is unlikely to be reversed and steps are needed to keep the GP sector viable.

Her team interviewed 138 GPs in the SAFKI Medicare Local area covering Southern Adelaide, Fleurieu Peninsula and Kangaroo Island, of whom 40% were practice owners, in 2013 and 2014. It also drew on questionnaires with 54 practice managers.

“There are lots of things GPs love about being a practice owner — being able to decide how they are going to practice, the autonomy and the financial rewards,” she said. “We also identified a bunch of younger GPs who were interested in practice