Give Bonded Medical Place Scheme pre-2016 participants a fair go

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Sign on to add your voice as we call on the Australian Government Department of Health to give Bonded Medical Place Scheme pre-2016 participants a fair go, with the option to sign onto 2016 contracts.

BACKGROUND

The Bonded Medical Place (BMP) Scheme is an Australian Government rural health workforce initiative introduced in 2004. It’s aim has been to provide more doctors for Australia’s District of Workforce Shortage communities.

The BMP Scheme seeks to achieve this outcome, by requiring 25% of all students who accept a Commonwealth Supported Place at medical school to sign a contractual agreement to work, in an eligible District of Workforce Shortage or Modified Monash Model location 4-7 (ie. towns with a population of 15,000 or less) of their choice for a designated period.

For pre-2016 BMP participants, this equates to a return of service period of time equal to the length of their medical degree. This can mean up to 6 years. The return of service period may be reduced with scaling discounts. Through scaling, a participant can reduce their return of service obligation in proportion to the remoteness rating of their practice location. The eligibility to claim return of service generally does not commence until the participant has obtained fellowship of a specialist college, although up to half of the return of service obligation can be claimed during prior prevocational and/or vocational training.

For BMP participants, from 2016 onwards, the contractual return of service obligation offered is more flexible. These participants have a return of service obligation of 12 months only, and are ineligible for discount by scaling. The return of service can be completed at any time from once the participant commences internship, until 5 years after fellowship is obtained. The return of service commitment is formalised in a legal Deed of Agreement with the Australian Government, which is signed by the participating medical student at the time of commencing medical school.

What constitutes an eligible location for return of service is dynamic. It is based on published information on the www.doctorconnect.gov.au website. What is a District of Workforce Shortage at the time that a student commences medical school, may no longer be the case some years down the track, when they become a doctor. Accepting a BMP Scheme place is no small commitment. It is a huge commitment that will have significant personal and professional implications several years into the future – often at a time when participants will have to factor partner and family needs into their practice and training location decisions. In many cases, it is career and personally limiting.

There is no current peer- or professional-based support scheme funded by the Government to assist BMP Scheme participants navigate their return of service obligations, apart from the contact details for the Department of Health available on the BMP Scheme website. Such support would be key to ensuring participants who sign onto the program feel supported and more likely to remain in the rural health workforce long-term.

The current discrepancy between return of service obligations for pre- and post-2016 BMP Scheme participants is very unfair. It is even more unfair, considering that when the option of scaling was introduced in 2010, every BMP participant was offered a legal Deed of Variation to sign onto the new conditions. No Deed of Variation has been offered to pre-2016 BMP participants to sign onto the new 2016 conditions.

Help us advocate to the government that action needs to be taken to address the inequality within this rural health workforce incentive program. Adding YOUR name shows your support for our call to the Department of Health to give Bonded Medical Place Scheme pre-2016 participants a fair go, and offer these medical students and doctors the option to sign onto 2016 Deed of Variation contracts.



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