Shock exit of RACGP boss

The RACGP has confirmed the sudden departure of its CEO Paul Wappett, just one week after the college’s annual general meeting where he was hard at work outlining the way forward. 

Associate Professor David Hillis has been appointed as the interim CEO but some doctors are questioning the timing of his predecessor’s exit – with members forced to wait a year until the next AGM to find out the strategic thinking behind the decision.   

Mr Wappett served in the role from November 2021 and oversaw substantial change during his tenure, including a major restructure of the organisation and the return of Australian General Practice Training to the college. 

RACGP Board Chair Dr Lara Roeske informed members and staff of the change earlier in the day and thanked Mr Wappett for the work he had undertaken. 

“The board deeply appreciates Paul’s contribution to the RACGP,” she said. 

“We will now look to build on the transformation we have started, while continuing to deliver exceptional value for our members and strengthening Australia’s health system by growing, enabling, and advocating for Australia’s GPs. 

“We want to reassure members that the important work of our college will not stop, and the Board has every confidence in the executive team to deliver stability and steer the organisation.” 

Mr Wappett onboarded as CEO after two years at the helm of the Australian Institute of Business, following an extensive recruitment process and a unanimous board decision backing his appointment – at a time when the College was — and still is — facing financial challenges. 

He was previously the CEO of Open Universities Australia for seven years and his track record of development in the field of educational content and digital learning platforms were seen as key strengths essential for growing the RACGP’s GP training capacity. 

Mr Wappett told AusDoc on 6 November that the even though the RACGP had collected $192 million in revenue during the last financial year — 44% more than the year before — it still posted a $5.7 million deficit. 

“We put together a three-year plan … with a view that we would get back into a break-even result in the 2024/25 financial year,” he told AusDoc. 

“We had to make sure we brought the college back into the right level of financial sustainability, recognising the huge impact of the return of GP training, CPD changes and so on.” 

Despite the financial challenges, Mr Wappett and the college still appeared to be riding high on the success of the recent AGM, WONCA 2023, which included more than 200 sessions, involving 850 presentations on 58 different topics. 

“I’m so incredibly proud of the way in which our team at the RACGP planned for and then delivered the largest GP conference ever staged in Australia to >4,400 delegates from 115 countries around the world,” he said.
“… not only for pulling it off, but for the way in which we did it… I was in awe of so many of you, and deeply appreciative of the tone you struck while representing the College, our members, and Australia to the world.” 

His replacement, Associate Professor Hillis, is a former GP and an experienced CEO in the healthcare and education sectors, as well as an Adjunct Associate Professor at Monash University’s School of Public Health and Preventative Medicine. 

“We are grateful to David for bringing his expertise to this role,” Dr Roeske said. 

“The board has already begun a global executive search for our new CEO.”