Recruiting, retaining and supporting General Practitioners (GPs), Nurses and Allied Health Professionals in rural New South Wales, Australia

Common Questions

1. What is the NSW Rural Doctors Network?

2. What is the Rural Doctors Association?

3. What is an Area of Need?

4. What is Medicare?

5. What is the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme?

6. What is a Prescriber Number?

7. What is a Visiting Medical Officer?

8. What are Local Health Districts?

9. What grants are available through RDN?

10. What is the General Practice Rural Incentives Program?

11. What is the Remoteness Area Classification?

12. What is a Provider Number?

13. What is the Rural Locum Relief Program?

14. What is District of Workforce Shortage?

15. What is the 10 Year Moratorium?

16. What is the Rural Other Medical Practitioners Scheme?

17. What is the 5 Year Overseas Trained Doctor Scheme?

18. What is Australian General Practice Training?

19. What are Regional Training Organisations?

20. What is a Settlement Package?

21. What is the Modified Monash Model?

 

1. What is the NSW Rural Doctors Network?

The NSW Rural Doctors Network (RDN) is a non Government, not-for-profit organisation funded by the Australian Government Department of Health and the NSW Ministry of Health. RDN supports and assists communities in rural and remote New South Wales (NSW) to establish and maintain medical services. It does this through a range of programs including General Practitioner (GP) recruitment, recruitment of nurses and allied health professionals, provision of medical and health outreach services, medical workforce planning, community support and student activities. RDN provides a single point of contact for policy makers, academics, health service organisations, rural communities, practices and GPs for issues relating to the recruitment and retention of medical and health professionals in rural NSW.
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2. What is the Rural Doctors Association?

The Rural Doctors Association of Australia (RDAA) is a national industrial-political body representing the interests of doctors working in rural and remote Australia. The RDAA comprises Rural Doctors Associations in each state and territory. The RDA (NSW) maintains the RDA settlement package in rural New South Wales.
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3. What is an Area of Need?

An Area of Need (AoN) is a vacant position that has been recognised by the NSW Government Ministry of Health (MoH) as needing to be filled. Note that AoN is a MoH program and relates only to medical registration.

A practice has to formally apply for AoN status. If granted, AoN status applies only to the specific position defined in the application. It allows the practice to recruit an overseas trained doctor who would not otherwise be eligible for medical registration in New South Wales. AoN status is granted for a fixed period of time - usually three years and in a rural area. More information. AoN is often confused with District of Workforce Shortage. These are two different terms and are not interchangeable. Refer to the DWS information for further explanation.
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4. What is Medicare?

Medicare is Australia's universal health insurance system which provides Australians with free or subsidised medical treatment by a range of healthcare providers including General Practitioners (GPs). It is administered through the Australian Government Department of Human Services. Medicare also processes provider number applications for medical officers. More information.
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5. What is the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme?

The Australian Government subsidises a wide range of prescription medicine through the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme (PBS). Australian residents and eligible overseas visitors receive subsidised medicines provided their medication is listed on the PBS and the prescribing doctor has a valid prescriber number. More information.
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6. What is a Prescriber Number?

For a pharmacist to be able to provide prescription medications through the PBS i.e. at a subsidised price, the prescribing doctor must have a valid Prescriber Number and quote this on the prescription. Prescriber Numbers are issued by Medicare Australia. All doctors registered in Australia are eligible for a Prescriber Number. For more information about Prescriber Numbers and to download a Prescriber Number form, go to the Department of Human Services - Medicare website.
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7. What is a Visiting Medical Officer?

A Visiting Medical Officer (VMO) is a medical practitioner in private practice who also provides medical services in a public hospital. VMOs are not hospital employees but are contracted by the Local Health District (LHD) to provide specific medical services in nominated health facilities. For a General Practitioner (GP) to be granted VMO rights in a hospital, their core skills must be ‘credentialed’ by the relevant LHD and they must be granted ‘clinical privileges’ to provide services in nominated health facilities.
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8. What are Local Health Districts?

Local Health District (LHDs) are run and funded by the NSW Government Ministry of Health. They have responsibility for the delivery of public health care in defined geographic areas of NSW. LHDs manage all public health facilities throughout New South Wales (NSW) from major teaching hospitals to small district hospitals. Eight LHDs cover the Sydney metropolitan region and seven LHDs cover rural and regional NSW. More information.
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9. What grants are available through RDN?

Through funding provided by the Australian Government Department of Health (DoH) and the NSW Ministry of Health (MoH), RDN is able to offer grants to cover transition (relocation), Continuing Professional Development, and Clinical Orientation  (training), depending on eligibility. More information about RDN Grants. Other grants may be available directly from DoH or MoH.
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10. What is the General Practice Rural Incentives Program?

The General Practice Rural Incentives Program (GPRIP) is an Australian Government initiative that aims to promote careers in rural medicine as well as increase, recognise and retain medical practitioners in rural and remote Australia. GPRIP comprises:
•    GP Registrar Component
•    GP Component
•    Rural Relocation Incentive Grant.

Medical practitioners must provide eligible healthcare services in Remoteness Areas (RA) 2-5 locations and meet continuous service requirements. More information.
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11. What is the Remoteness Area Classification?

The Australian Standard Geographical Classification - Remoteness Area (ASGC-RA) is a classification system measuring remoteness of different geographical regions. There are five RA categories:

RA1: Major cities of Australia
RA2: Inner regional Australia
RA3: Outer regional Australia
RA4: Remote Australia
RA5: Very remote Australia

RA categories are used by the Australian Government to determine eligibility for many government programs for rural doctors. More information about ASGC-RA. For information about the RA classification for a location, search the map on the DoctorConnect website
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12. What is a Provider Number?

For a patient’s medical care to be subsidised by Medicare, the treating health professional must have a current Medicare Provider Number appropriate for the location in which the service is provided. The service must be one that is subsidised by Medicare. Doctors also require a Provider Number to refer patients to specialist medical practitioners so that the patient can claim a Medicare rebate for the specialist service. Medicare Provider Numbers are issued by the Department of Human Services (Medicare Australia). Some restrictions apply to doctors’ eligibility for a Medicare Provider Number. More information.
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13. What is the Rural Locum Relief Program?

Australian citizens and permanent Australian residents have to be vocationally registered or have Fellowship of an Australian College of General Practice in order to obtain a Medicare provider number. Doctors who face these provider number restrictions may be eligible to join the Rural Locum Relief Program (RLRP) which enables these doctors to access a Medicare provider number and work in a designated rural area.

Note:

  • New Zealand Citizens are considered to be Temporary Residents of Australia for Medicare purposes. Medicare restrictions may differ for New Zealand Citizens.
  • Overseas Trained Doctors may also be affected by additional restrictions; see the FAQs on the 10 Year Moratorium and District of Workforce Shortage.

In New South Wales, the RLRP is administered by RDN. More information.
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14. What is District of Workforce Shortage?

District of Workforce Shortage (DWS) is a geographic area in which there are insufficient doctors for the population’s need. DWS status is determined by the Australian Government on the basis of the doctor to population ratio in the town. It applies to the whole town and is reviewed on an annual basis. DWS status only applies while the doctor to population ratio in that town remains significantly below the national average.

Doctors affected by the Ten Year Moratorium on provider numbers must work in a DWS location in order to obtain a Medicare provider number. More information on DWS is available on the DoctorConnect website. You can check the DWS status of a location/locality on the DoctorConnect website by entering the address of the location into the Locator Map and then selecting the 'District of Workforce Shortage' layer.
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15. What is the 10 Year Moratorium?

The 10 Year Moratorium is the common name for the provider number restrictions imposed by Section 19AB of the Health Insurance Act. Those overseas-trained doctors and overseas medical students who were not registered as a medical practitioner in Australia, or had not applied to sit the Australian Medical Council (AMC) exams by 1 January 1997, are likely to be subject to the Moratorium. Exemptions to the Moratorium can be granted by the Australian Government if the doctor works in a designated District of Workforce Shortage. The duration of the Moratorium will vary depending on when the doctor first obtained medical registration in Australia and when they obtained permanent Australian residency. A reduction on the Moratorium may be given if a doctor works in a nominated rural or remote area. More information.
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16. What is the Rural Other Medical Practitioners Program?

The Rural Other Medical Practitioners (ROMPs) Program provides access to the higher A1 Medicare rebate to non-vocationally recognised medical practitioners providing general practice services in eligible rural and remote areas. Normally non-vocationally recognised medical practitioners would access the lower A2 Medicare rebate. More information.
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17. What is the 5 Year Overseas Trained Doctor Scheme?

The 5 Year Overseas Trained Doctor Scheme (also known as the 5 Year Scheme) offers reductions to the 10 Year Moratorium to Overseas Trained Doctors (OTDs) who work in locations which are the most difficult to fill. OTDs applying to join this program must gain Fellowship of a specialist General Practice College and Australian permanent residency by the end of their program in order to meet the requirements of the Scheme. More information.
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18. What is Australian General Practice Training?

Australian General Practice Training (AGPT) is run by the Australian Government and 'provides vocational training for medical graduates wishing to specialise in general practice. The two endpoints of the AGPT program are the Fellowship of the Australian College of Rural and Remote Medicine (FACRRM) and the Fellowship of the Royal Australian College of General Practitioners (FRACGP).' Source. The AGPT program is a three or four year full-time training program delivered through Regional Training Organisations (RTOs) across Australia. In NSW the program is administered by one organisation, GP Synergy. More information.
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19. What are Regional Training Organisations?

Regional Training Organisations (RTOs) deliver general practice training in Australia in defined geographic areas. In NSW the program is administered by one organisation, GP Synergy. More information is available on the AGPT website.
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20. What is a Settlement Package?

The Rural Doctors Association (RDA) Settlement Package establishes payment rates for medical services provided by General Practitioner Visiting Medical Officers (GP VMOs) at 125 small (RDA Settlement Package) hospitals in rural New South Wales. These payment rates are only available to RDA (NSW) members and are substantially higher than the Medicare rebates otherwise payable.

The RDA Settlement Package schedule of fees is indexed annually. The package ensures that GP VMOs providing on-call and after hours services in areas with minimal specialist backup are renumerated appropriately for the services they provide.

For more information about the RDA Settlement Package and a list of hospitals, visit the RDA (NSW) website.
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21. What is the Modified Monash Model?

The Modified Monash Model (MMM) is a classification system implemented 1 July 2015 for some Commonwealth Government programs. MMM "better categorises metropolitan, regional, rural and remote areas according to both geographical remoteness and town size. The system was developed to recognise the challenges in attracting health workers to more remote and smaller communities." Source and more information

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