The Bonded Medical Program

The Government’s Bonded Programs aim to provide more Australian trained doctors in areas of workforce shortage, particularly in regional, rural and remote Australia.

Page last updated: 04 June 2021

May 2021 update on the Bonded Medical Program

The Department continues to work to address issues with the opt in process that arose during the implementation of the Bonded Medical Program (the Program) and with day to day management of incoming requests from legacy scheme participants.

Based on recent feedback from key stakeholders, the Department is prioritising opting in those participants that were not correctly bonded in 2020, including those that thought they had completed their obligations and exited the program.

The opt in process has now resumed and the Department has advised a number of affected individuals that their case has been allocated for review. More will be contacted in coming weeks as cases are allocated and progressed.

Due to the number of cases involved, and the need to fully understand the personal circumstances of each legacy scheme participant, it will take time for the Department to work through each individual case.

Work also continues on managing general incoming queries from legacy scheme participants. Several hundred emails are received each week (from the more than 10,000 legacy scheme participants).

The Department is working to respond as soon as possible, giving highest priority to requests for deferral or simultaneous work approval to assist participants who are concerned they may breach their legacy scheme contract or deed of agreement.

The May 2021: Update on the Bonded Medical Program contains more information about these issues and what the Department is doing to resolve them.

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 BRoSS@health.gov.au and are subject to an eligibility check.

Information and useful resources

There are a variety of fact sheets, frequently asked questions and links to resource material available on the 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

Legislation

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 BRoSS@health.gov.au

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

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.