‘No disadvantage’ for affected Bonded Medical Program participants

24 Jun 2021

AMA advocacy has been instrumental in securing a guarantee from the Department of Health that all doctors who had either expressed an interest to opt-in to the statutory Bonded Medical Program, or who were incorrectly opted in, will be assured no disadvantage because of the issues that arose during the implementation of the program last year.

These cohorts are: 

  • Those who thought they were opted in, had completed their obligations and had exited the program; 
  • Those who thought they had opted in and still need to complete their return of service obligations (RoSO); and now also
  • Those who had expressed their interest to opt in via email and were awaiting a response.

After many representations by the AMA on behalf of the doctors who have applied, but are still waiting to be opted in officially, this week the Department of Health guaranteed no disadvantage for them by agreeing to deem the date they applied to opt in, as being the date of having opted-in (subject to a participant having acted in good faith).  

On 6 April 2021, we reported on the AMA's success in eliciting the Minister for Health’s assurance of no disadvantage for the other two cohorts noted above.

Since mid-2020, the AMA has lobbied to address the myriad of problems, which have hampered the program's reputation and angered and inconvenienced doctors, including, participants’ practical inability to comply with their obligations with consequences for their mental wellbeing. We are now seeing improved outcomes.

An important issue remaining for the AMA is to make sure the Department of Health resolves the very lengthy delays in responding to queries and resolving individual cases. While we continue to ask for action time-frames to be established, we are privy to in-confidence data showing how cases are progressing and what method is being applied to decision making.  For each case, the decision process is resource intensive and time consuming, but the AMA has confidence there are new systems in place that will be more effective.

Do you need a deferral or simultaneous work approval?

Medical Rural Bonded Scholarship (MRBS) participants who need approvals for RoSO are asked, as soon as possible, to email: BondedMedicalProgram@health.gov.au with the subject line containing the following verbatim text: 

MRBS Scheme - Dr [insert your name] – Request for Deferral/Simultaneous Work Approval.  

Doing this will speed up the Department’s responsiveness. Because of the AMA’s advice, the Department of Health has promised to treat MRBS participants as a priority. BMP participants who want to advise on a proposed change to work activity should also act according to the email advice above.
In addition to providing the details of your proposed work activities, you should also nominate the period for which you seek approval. 
Read the full Department of Health June update here

Read previous AMA Updates:

Members are welcome to provide feedback or request support at workforce@ama.com.au