Medical Rural Bonded Scholarship Scheme commonly asked questions

The Government’s Bonded Programs aim to provide more Australian trained doctors where there are workforce shortages, particularly in rural and remote Australia.

Page last updated: 14 August 2020

The Medical Rural Bonded Scholarship (MRBS) Scheme is closed to new participants.

The Bonded Medical Program New Arrangement came into effect from 1 January 2020. Information is available online.

NOTE: In this advice, the terms ‘you’ or ‘your’ refers to the participant or the participant’s obligation.

MRBS Scholars Only

Yes. You must notify the MRBS Team via the MRBScholarships@health.gov.au that you would like to defer your study (for less than 12 months)

Checklist of information required from the participant:

1. You will need to provide the following information:

  • describe your circumstances; and
  • the start and end dates of the deferral period.

Yes. You must notify the MRBS Team via the MRBS Scholars mailbox that you would like to defer your study (for longer than 12 months)

Checklist of information required from the participant:

1. You will need to provide the following information:

  • describe your circumstances and;
  • the start and end dates of the deferral period.

You must notify the MRBS Team via MRBS Scholars mailbox that you would like to update your contact details

Checklist of information required from the participant:

1. You will need to provide the following information:

  • updated residential address
  • updated postal address
  • preferred contact number
  • preferred email address
  • any other relevant information regarding your contact details

You must notify the MRBS Team via the MRBS Scholars mailbox that you have a changed your name.

Checklist of documents required from the participant:

1. You will need to provide the following information:

  • a scanned copy of your marriage certificate or
  • a scanned copy of official change of name certificate

Pre Vocational Training (Internship onwards)

Congratulations on completing your medical degree.

You must notify the MRBS Team via the MRBS mailbox that you have graduated from your medical course and that you are starting your internship.

Checklist of information required from the participant:

1. You must provide the following information about your internship placement:

  • commencement date of your internship placement;
  • estimated end date of your internship placement;
  • location details of your internship placement(s);
  • medical registration number; and
  • any additional information about your pre-vocational training.

Vocational Training (Training Towards Fellowship)

You must notify the MRBS Team via the MRBS mailbox that you have completed your pre-vocational training (internship) and commenced your vocational training (specialty training)

Checklist of information required from the participant:

1. You must provide the following information about your vocational training:

  • date you completed your internship;
  • name of the medical college and vocational training program;
  • commencement date of your vocational training;
  • estimated end date of your vocational training;
  • medical registration number;
  • Medicare provider number; and
  • any additional information about your pre-vocational training.

Royal Australian College of Medical Administrators

Note: Royal Australian College of Medical Administrators. Some earlier MRBS contracts do not list a fellowship of the Royal Australian College of Medical Administrators (RACMA) as an eligible qualification under the MRBS Scheme.

The MRBS Scheme advises the RACMA is an eligible medical college under the Scheme and a fellowship from RACMA is a valid fellowship under which to commence a return of service period obligation under the MRBS Scheme, even if it may not be noted explicitly in your Contract

Fellowship

You must notify the MRBS Team via the MRBS mailbox that you have attained College Fellowship.

Checklist of information and documents required from the participant:

You must provide the following documentation and information

1. A copy of your College Fellowship Certificate.

2. The date you wish to commence your return of service period. This can either be:

  • from the date your obtained Fellowship; or
  • a date that you intend to commence, provided it is within 12 months of attaining Fellowship.

3. Provide evidence to demonstrate that you have commenced or are about to commence your return of service period in a rural or remote area.

4. On receipt of your fellowship documentation and evidence of your return of service period, we will prepare your return of service period documentation and email this information to you for your review.

Yes. As per your MRBS Contract, once you attain Fellowship you cannot render a Professional Service for which a Medicare benefit is payable outside an eligible Rural or Remote Area until the time you complete your return of service period.

The definition of “professional service” is in section 3 of the Health Insurance Act 1973. You can view the latest version of the Health Insurance Act 1973 on the Federal Register of Legislation at (http://www.comlaw.gov.au/Details/C2012C00842).

You must apply to the MRBS inbox for approval before you start working if you wish to provide professional services in a non-rural or remote area:

  • in the period between the date you obtain Fellowship and the date you commence your return of service period; or
  • to undertake work for upskilling or education purposes once you commence your return of service period

If you provide a professional service in a non-rural or remote area after obtaining your Fellowship without prior approval you will be in breach of your MRBS Contract.

Return of Service Period (RoSP)

Your return of service period obligation is 6 years less any scaling discount.

During your return of service period you must work in an eligible location:

  • for an average of 20 hours per week; and
  • for not less than 9 months of each full calendar year; and
  • in any period of 6 consecutive months you must work for no less than 3 months unless the Minister’s authorised representative has otherwise agreed.

Check your contract for the geographical classification system to determine where you can undertake your return of service, for example is it RRMA or RA.

Eligible locations can be confirmed via the Doctor Connect website

2001 – 2009 Rural, Remote and Metropolitan Area (RRMA) Contract

If you have signed the MRBS RRMA Contract, the classification rating is determined at the time of signing the contract, as described in Attachment B of your Contract or by using the RRMA (1991) layer map on the Dr Connect Website

2010 Scaling Deed of Variation – Australian Standard Geographical Classification- Remoteness Area (ASGC-RA) rating

If you have signed the MRBS Contract in 2010 under the Australian Standard Geographical Classification- Remoteness Area (ASGC-RA) ratings, the most recent version of the Australian Standard Geographical Classification- Remoteness Area (ASGC-RA) at the time you gain Fellowship applies to your Contract. The most recent version is the ASGC-RA (2006) layer on the Dr Connect Website

2010 – onwards Scaling Deed of Variation - Geographical Classification System (GCS)

Participants who have signed the MRBS Contract from 2010 onwards under the Geographical Classification System (GCS) ratings, the most recent version of the Geographical Classification System (GCS) at the time you commence Work at the location and/or commencement of return of service at the location. The most recent version is the Australian Statistical Geography Standard-Remoteness Area (ASGS-RA) 2016 layer on the Dr Connect Website

Note: As boundary lines cut through some locations, typing a Suburb or Postcode of a location on the map locator is not sufficient to get a correct result.

The full street address of the location must be entered.

For 2010 – 2016 Contracts that refer to GCS only

If you commence work in a Rural or Remote Area and it subsequently ceases to be an eligible Rural and Remote Area due to reclassification, provided you commenced work prior to the area being reclassified you are able to work in that area for the Return of Service Period in fulfilment of your obligations under the Contract. However, you will only receive the new scaling discount applicable.

If you cease to work in that area and then decide to return then the new classification rating will apply. If the reclassified area is still an eligible Rural or Remote Area, you will receive the new scaling discount applicable.

The Rural Workforce Agency (RWA) in your state provides support to bonded doctors as part of their activities to attract, recruit and support health professionals in rural and remote communities.

RWAs can provide advice about current and upcoming job vacancies in eligible locations so that you can meet your return of service obligations.

Contact details for the Rural Workforce Agency in your state is available at www.rhwa.org.au/

You must notify the MRBS Team via the MRBS mailbox the following information and documents about your return of service period.

Checklist of information and documentation required from the participant:

1. You must provide the following information and documentation

  • the date you will commence your return of service period;
  • evidence that you have a job in an eligible rural or remote area such as a signed, dated employment contract stating;
      • name of organisation/practice;
      • full address of the organisation/practice;
      • the start and end dates of the employment period; and
      • the hours of work per week.

Approval to work in a metropolitan location

No, not unless you have been approved to do so.

As per your MRBS Contract, once you attain Fellowship you cannot to render a Professional Service for which a Medicare benefit is payable outside an eligible Rural or Remote Area until the time you complete your Return of Service Period.

If you provide a professional service in a non-rural or remote area after obtaining your Fellowship without prior approval you will be in breach of your MRBS Contract.

You must apply to the MRBS Team via the MRBS inbox for approval before you start working if you wish to provide professional services in a non-rural or remote area.

Applications for approval to undertake work in a non-rural or remote area for upskilling or education purposes will only be considered once you demonstrate that you have commenced your return of service period.

You must provide the following information to the MRBS Team via the MRBS mailbox for approval to work in a metropolitan location

Checklist of information and documentation required from the participant:

1. You must provide the following information and documentation:

  • how you will simultaneously undertake your return or service obligations in an eligible area;
  • how your work outside an eligible area would benefit your patients in the return of service location(s); and
  • evidence that you are meeting your return of service obligations in an eligible location(s), such as a copy of your signed work contract (including hours worked per week/per month and the street address of the location(s) at which you work)

Deferrals

You are entitled to a deferral period of up to 12 months for each child born or adopted by you.

You must notify the MRBS Team of the exact return to employment date, employment location and address so Medicare can be requested to recommence tracking the return of service period.

Once you recommence the return of service period following the maternity/parenting leave deferral you must meet the return of service period requirements.

You cannot provide professional services which attract a Medicare rebate while you are on maternity leave.

You must provide the MRBS Team via the MRBScholarships@health.gov.au evidence that you would like to apply for maternity / parental leave.

Checklist of information and documentation required from the participant:

1. You must notify the MRBS Team in writing no later than 30 days after the commencement of the deferral period - You must provide the following information and documentation:

  • The date on which the child was born or adopted together with supporting evidence, such as the child's birth certificate (when available) or a signed and witnessed statutory declaration.
  • The notification must include the commencement date and anticipated completion date of the leave.

Yes, you can apply for a deferral of your return of service period obligations to undertake post-Fellowship training.

You must notify the MRBS Team via the MRBS mailbox

Checklist of information and documentation required from the participant:

1. You must provide a copy of your post-Fellowship training acceptance letter (on letterhead) stating the start and end dates of the training period.

Yes, you can apply for special consideration to defer your return of service period obligations.

You must notify the MRBS Team via the MRBS mailbox that you have a medical condition and need to defer your return of service period.

Checklist of information and documentation required from the participant:

1. You should provide the following information about your medical condition:

  • Medical reports from your treating specialists; and
  • Demonstrate your medical condition prevents you from meeting your return of service period requirements.

Scaling

Scaling works by reducing the expected end date of your return of service period.

You can reduce your return of service period obligations more quickly by working more remotely.

Scaling discounts apply to the return of service period on a monthly basis, providing you continue to work in an eligible location and meet the minimum work requirements as per the MRBS Contract.

Scaling is applied based on the location at which you do the most billing for that month.

Medical Rural Bonded Scholarship Scheme

Scaling discounts by certain rates

RA Category

Scaling Discount Rate %

RoSP in years

Discount time in years

RA2

10%

5.4

0.6

RA3

30%

4.2

1.8

RA4

40%

3.6

2.4

RA5

50%

3.0

3.0

If you are meeting the required 20 hours per week for you return of service period you can submit a witnessed Statutory Declaration outlining the hours, dates and location of the workplace as evidence that you have met the obligations of the MRBS Scheme.

Yes, scaling is applied on a monthly basis according to the location at which you do the most billing.

For example, if you worked the required 20 hours per week in an RA2 location for 12 months, you would receive a discount of approximately 3 days per month for the 12 month period off your return of service period end date. If you only work nine months, then only nine months of your return of service period would be considered complete and only nine months of discount would be applied.

You can view your return of service period and scaling discount through the Department of Human Service's Health Professionals Online Services (HPOS).

HPOS allows you to see information about your identity, eligibility and details necessary for the processing and payments of Medicare claims.

On HPOS, scaling is applied by reducing the expected end date of your return of service period.

Instructions on how to access the HPOS system is available at: www.humanservices.gov.au/health-professionals/services/medicare/hpos

Alternatively, you contact the Department of Human Services Medicare Program on 132 150 Option 6 - electronic claiming or Health Professional Online Services (HPOS); or eBusiness Service Centre on 1800 700 199 or at ebusiness@humanservices.gov.au

For 2010 – 2016 Contracts that refer to GCS only

If you commence work in a Rural or Remote Area and it subsequently ceases to be an eligible Rural and Remote Area due to reclassification, provided you commenced work prior to the area being reclassified you are able to work in that area for the Return of Service Period in fulfilment of your obligations under the Contract. However, you will only receive the new scaling discount applicable.

If you cease to work in that area and then decide to return then the new classification rating will apply. If the reclassified area is still an eligible Rural or Remote Area, you will receive the new scaling discount applicable.

Note: The Geographical Classification System may change over time or be replaced with an alternative system at any time by the Department due to a change in government, a change in policy or for other reasons due to the administration of government or the Scholarship Scheme.

Checklist of documents required from the participant

You must provide the following documentation:

  • a witnessed Statutory Declaration outlining the hours worked, dates and the street addresses of the location at which you have worked.