Working as a GP Locum in AMS: Your Questions Answered

By Melinda McCarthy published on 24/02/2021

Working with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples gives doctors the opportunity to address one of Australia’s most critical public health issues: “closing the gap” between the health outcomes of Indigenous Australians and other Australians.

“The most rewarding aspect of working in an AMS is the sense of purpose I get out of helping Indigenous people and supporting the staff who work in these clinics.” Dr Robyn White

Working within Aboriginal communities in rural and remote regions allows doctors to manage complex and challenging cases using a wide range of procedural and emergency skills. Our Indigenous Health General Practitioners are understanding and appreciative of the uniqueness of each community they serve and enjoy working collaboratively alongside Aboriginal healthcare workers.

As a doctor wanting to work with Aboriginal people, you may choose to live in a community, work in an urban ACCHS, locum or FIFO. Today, we hope to address some of your most Frequently Asked Questions surrounding working as an AMS Locum in Australia. If we missed out on something you’d like to know more about, please contact Georgia on +61 2 9357 2448.

 Q: Do I need any specific skills to work in an AMS?

A: Doctors will have their FRACGP or FACCRM. Within the Fellowship curriculum there is a compulsory component in Indigenous Health. Doctors who have proceduralist skills and an up-to-date ALS certificate will be highly regarded in the more rural and remote settings. General Practitioners wanting to work as a locum doctor in an AMS must be culturally sensitive, acknowledging and understanding the social, economic, cultural and behavioural factors that underpin health, both at individual and community levels.

Your induction process will include any specific challenges a community may face, however it is important to note that the presentations seen on a daily basis will often include higher instances of chronic illness. These include respiratory diseases, heart and circulatory diseases, diabetes, kidney diseases and some cancers. There is an educational and preventative approach when working with patients in Aboriginal Medical Services and Aboriginal Healthcare workers, and other AMS staff members are an integral part of that support, as are the GPs working within these centres.

Q: What if I am an IMG within my Moratorium?

A: Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Organisations (ACCHOs) are classified as DPA which means we are able to arrange a special exemption to allow you to access A1 Medicare rebates. We will need 6-8 weeks notice to arrange the exemption, therefore as an IMG it’s beneficial to plan ahead when booking locum work.

Q: What is the average duration of a locum contract?

A: The length of the locum contract tends to vary on how remote the location is and can span from between two and four weeks. If quarantine is required due to COVID-19, the minimum length locum requested is six weeks. Practices tend to prefer a longer commitment when possible as this allows for continuity of care for patients.

Q: How much will I get paid as an AMS GP Locum?

A: Locum pay rates will depend on the remoteness, support and location in which a community is based. Rates range from $1200/day to $1500/day.

Q: What is the average consultation length?

A: Appointments can range from 15 minutes to an hour's consultation. For longer consultations, you will work in conjunction with Aboriginal healthcare workers and nurses to meet the needs of your patient.

Q: Where do I stay? Do I get a choice in my accommodation?

A: Many AMS will have specific accommodation for locum GPs, which is usually self-contained and does not require you to share with another doctor unless specified. Sometimes you may be required to stay on-site within the AMS facility.  If you do have any special requirements, let your Ochre Recruitment consultant know and they will be able to help make the arrangements for you.

Q: Can I take my family or partner?

A: Many communities are safe and welcoming to families and partners and they offer large housing as accommodation.

Q: What recreational activities and experiences are available?

A: Each community opens you up to different opportunities! From local swimming holes, walking and cycle trails, camping opportunities, gyms and pools. It’s certainly worthwhile extending your stay after completing your locum to explore the real Australia and to embrace the adventure that lies beyond.

Q: How do I get to and from a community?

A: Many communities require day-time driving as driving in remote locations at night can sometimes be dangerous. Alternatively, there may be a series of interstate flights and charter flights to get out to community. If this is the case, the availability of shops for fresh food, how long you will be staying within the community will be advised by your Ochre Recruitment consultant.

Q: What happens if there is an emergency in the community?

Different communities will have different procedures based on how remote the clinic is. In the Northern Territory for example, there is 24-hour telephone access to the Northern Territory Department of Health Remote Health District Medical Officer (RMP/DMO). When emergency evacuations are necessary, the health centre staff will provide medical care as per the CARPA manual and direction of the DMO while waiting for the arrival of a doctor and/or Careflight staff.

Most remote communities will require a GP-on-call element as the remote nursing staff are well-equipped to handle emergency situations. Other services can be located next to a hospital or have access to Royal Flying doctors service. This is advised at the time of booking the locum.

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There is a great demand for medical practitioners in AMS & ACCHS across Australia. Our Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples deserve access to the same levels of healthcare and services that other Australians enjoy. Ochre Recruitment has been and continues to be committed to improving health outcomes for all Australians.

If you want a locum that is both professionally and personally rewarding and you have availability, we’d love to hear from you. Please get in touch with Georgia Stratford

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