Bonded Medical Program – Update Webinar: December 2021
The department has committed to provide regular updates for individuals affected by the issues that arose during the early implementation of the statutory Bonded Medical Program in 2020.
On Tuesday 14 December 2021, the department hosted the third in its series of update webinars. The department provided an update on the process being undertaken to prioritise and finalise individual cases and progress made to date.
The update webinar provided a forum for affected individuals to ask questions. The department uses the questions raised in these update webinars – along with enquiries received via the Call Centre and in direct emails – to inform the Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) document.
Given that some affected individuals were not able to attend the webinar, the presentation slide deck has been made available.
Amendments to the Health Insurance Act 1973
On 13 December 2021, the Health Insurance Amendment (Enhancing the Bonded Medical Program and Other Measures) Bill 2021 received the Royal Assent.
The amendments to the legislation are significant as they will allow:
- for inadvertent and/or minor breaches under the Program and legacy schemes to be more appropriately managed;
- a person, in the event of serious disability or death, to cease to be a Bonded Participant without penalty; and
- for some Bonded Participants, in limited circumstances, to apply for more time to complete their RoSO.
The department will provide further information regarding the implementation of these amendments – and consequential amendments to the Health Insurance (Bonded Medical Program) Rule 2020 – in the next Bonded Medical Program Update Newsletter.
How to email the department
New mailbox arrangements
We have now moved to a single mailbox entry point for all ‘bonded’ enquiries.
Please only use BondedMedicalProgram@health.gov.au using the subject: ‘[Scheme/Program] – [Your Name] – [Request]’
This will help us manage your request and respond quickly. For more information on contacting the Department please refer to our July 2021 update Bonded Medical Program update – July 2021
Bonded Medical Program Newsletter October/November 2021
The department is continuing to resolve cases for individuals impacted by issues that arose during the implementation of the statutory Bonded Medical Program (the Program) in 2020. The October/November Newsletter provides information on the department’s progress to resolve these cases.
The process to resolve cases involves understanding the affected individual’s personal circumstances since they were not correctly bonded in 2020. This includes thorough assessment of both recent and historic actions taken.
Prospective Student Information Booklet and Webinar
The updated Bonded Medical Program: Prospective Student Information Booklet (December 2021) is now available. The Prospective Student Information Booklet provides a helpful overview of the Bonded Medical Program. It will assist prospective students to understand the benefits of becoming a bonded participant and to be clear on their obligations under the Program if they do.
The Prospective Student Information Booklet is complemented by the Information for Prospective Students webinar, which provides the same information in an easy to follow presentation format. The Department encourages prospective students who are considering a career in medicine, to review this material – and to seek independent advice – prior to accepting a place in the Bonded Medical Program.
Health Workforce Locator
The annual updates of the Distribution Priority Areas (DPA) and the Districts of Workforce Shortage (DWS) for specialists are available from 1 July 2020.
To view these updates, please select the DPA or DWS Classification Filters, and enter an address into the DoctorConnect Health Workforce Locator.
The Government’s Bonded Programs have been in operation since 2001. The statutory Bonded Medical Program (the Program) commenced on 1 January 2020. Up to that point, there were two legacy schemes - the Medical Rural Bonded Scholarship (MRBS) Scheme and the Bonded Medical Places (BMP) Scheme – which are both now closed. Legacy scheme participants can request to opt in to the Program. Since 1 January 2020, successful new medical student applicants have entered the Program directly.
The Program provides students a Commonwealth Supported Place (CSP) in a medical course at an Australian university in return for a commitment to work in eligible regional, rural and remote areas for a specified period after completion of their medical course. This commitment is referred to as a Return of Service Obligation (RoSO).
The Program is a critical component of the Government's Stronger Rural Health Strategy to ensure that the Australian trained medical workforce is well-distributed, flexible and targeted to areas of most need. The Department acknowledges the commitment made by participants to regional, rural and remote Australia.
Existing participants may request to opt in by emailing BondedMedicalProgram@health.gov.au and are subject to an eligibility check.
When emailing please use the following naming convention ‘[Scheme/Program] – [Name] – [Request]’
Information and useful resources
We are transitioning to the new departmental site, there are a variety of fact sheets, frequently asked questions and links to resource material available on the new Bonded Medical Program Resource page.
While we are in the transition period, information is still available on Bonded Medical Program Resource page.
Key features of the reformed Bonded Medical Program
The key features of the Program are:
- a standard three (3) year Return of Service Obligation (RoSO) to be completed over an eighteen (18) year period. Participants of the BMP scheme 2016-2019 cohort who have a twelve (12) month RoSO will keep this under the new arrangement
- replacement of the individual contract/deed of agreement with a statutory scheme
- a Program specific web portal, the Bonded Return of Service System (BRoSS) to provide self-service management of RoSO
- a wide range of options as to when, where and how you choose to complete your RoSO within the Program’s time frame and requirements. 18 months can be completed pre-fellowship and 18 months completed post fellowship. RoSO can be non-continuous, full or part-time work, and fly-in/fly-out work in eligible locations may be counted towards RoSO
- more choice and more locations with participants able to complete their RoSO in Modified Monash Model (MMM) 2-7 locations, and in Distribution Priority Areas (DPA) for General Practitioners or District of Workforce Shortage (DWS) for Specialists for their medical speciality
- no restrictions on working in areas which are not eligible for RoSO during the 18-year period
Participants of the Program are bound by Part VD of the Health Insurance Act 1973 (Act) and must abide by the Health Insurance (Bonded Medical Program) Rule 2020 (Rule).
The timelines set by the Health Insurance (Bonded Medical Program) Rule 2020 (Cth) that require the participant to provide information and evidence under sections 15 and 16 are delayed until 30 June 2021.
The Department has implemented a transition period where the participant’s obligations to provide information and upload evidence are delayed until BRoSS is fully functional. The Rule has been amended to formally establish this transition period, which means current participants of the Medical Rural Bonded Scholarship (MRBS) and Bonded Medical Places (BMP) schemes who are opting in to the Program cannot be liable for any administrative penalty arising out of not complying with time frames set out in the Rule.
Participants who wish to keep their Program reporting obligations up-to-date may email BondedMedicalProgram@health.gov.au using the subject ‘[Scheme/Program] – [Name] – [Request]’.
Bonded Return of Service System (BRoSS)
The Bonded Return of Service System (BRoSS), the Department's web portal, is being developed to support the Program. BRoSS will allow bonded students and doctors to self-manage their RoSO and identify eligible locations where they can work.
Self-management of RoSO including planning and recording of events are currently in development and will be released progressively.
Role of Rural Workforce Agencies
Rural Workforce Agencies (RWA) in the relevant State or Territory will provide support to Program participants. RWAs can assist with placement into rural roles that are eligible for RoSO. They will also provide information about professional development, rural medical network support and access to grants.