Section 19AA of the Act was introduced in 1996 to recognise and support general practice as a vocational specialty, as well as to provide a framework for achieving long term improvements in the quality of doctors working in Australia.
Section 19AA of the Act applies to all medical practitioners who:
- held medical registration by an Australian Medical Board on or after 1 November 1996;
- are Australian permanent residents or Australian citizens; and
- do not hold continued recognition by the Royal Australian College of General Practitioners or the Australian College of Rural and Remote Medicine and/or recognition from a specialist medical college.
The Medicare provider number restrictions introduced in 1996 in section 19AA of the Act apply to doctors who were first recognised as Australian medical practitioners on or after 1 November 1996 and who are neither vocationally recognised nor hold fellowship of a recognised medical college. Section 19AA of the Act restricts the accessing of Medicare benefits to doctors who are:
- Australian citizens or permanent residents; or
- temporary residents who have completed their commitment to section 19AB of the Act.
Section 19AA of the Act ensures that all doctors receiving medical education and training in Australia possess the appropriate qualifications to practise medicine. These qualifications require Australian-trained doctors, as well as permanent residents and Australian citizens who trained overseas, to complete a program of postgraduate vocational medical training before being eligible to receive a Medicare provider number with access to the Medicare benefits arrangements.
There are exemptions from section 19AA restrictions for certain training and workforce programs. Section 3GA of the Act allows medical practitioners undertaking postgraduate education or training placements on approved workforce training programs to provide professional medical services that are eligible to attract Medicare benefits. Exemptions to section 19AA of the Act apply to most medical college training and workforce programs, including the Australian General Practice Training (AGPT) Program and the Rural Locum Relief Program (RLRP).