The Bonded Medical Program (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 workforce shortage particularly in regional, rural and remote communities.
The department is continuing to resolve cases for individuals impacted by issues that arose during the implementation of the Program in 2020.
As highlighted in our December/January 2022 newsletter resolution of each case involves understanding the affected individual’s personal circumstances since they were not correctly bonded in 2020, including assessment of both recent and historic actions taken.
Additional flexibility to complete RoSO
On 5 April 2022, the Health Insurance (Bonded Medical Program Amendment Rule (No.1) 2022 was registered on the Federal Register of Legislation. The amendments contained in the amended rule commenced on 6 April 2022.
The amendment to the rule changes the definition of ‘per-day basis’ to offer bonded participants greater flexibility in meeting their 3‑year return of service obligation.
Previously, a bonded participant could complete their RoSO on a ‘per day basis’ provided they completed at least 7.5 hours of eligible work on each of those days.
The new definition provides that a bonded participant completes 1 week of their return of service obligation on a per-day basis, if they are employed in eligible work on two or more days with a total of at least 20 hours.
It will no longer be necessary for a participant to work at least 7.5 hours on each of the relevant days to accrue 1 week towards their return of service obligation. A participant will simply need to work at least 20 hours spread across two or more days.
Removing the 7.5 hour minimum requirement recognises that bonded participants may have circumstances that limit them from completing longer periods of work on any given day. It supports participants to work in a more flexible way by creating opportunities to commence eligible work that they may not have otherwise pursued. It also supports bonded participants returning to the health workforce (e.g. after maternity/paternity leave) to be recognised for eligible work they complete.
BRoSS – Release 9
The Bonded Return of Service System (BRoSS) is the department's online system which assists bonded participants to plan, monitor and manage their obligations under the Program. Other users of BRoSS include universities, Rural Workforce Agencies and departmental staff.
BRoSS continues to be developed and released in stages. BRoSS Release 9 was completed on 5 April 2022. It provides enhanced functionality for bonded participants to meet their reporting requirements, including automatic warnings and messages to remind participants of their reporting obligations. The 7.5 hour minimum requirement for recognition of RoSO has also been removed (in accordance with the changes outlined above).
To support bonded participants, we have created the Bonded Return of Service System (BRoSS) Webinar. The webinar includes a live video demonstration of BRoSS and outlines frequently asked questions and answers.
The department has completed a significant update of our website. The new look website is simpler to use and directs participants to our latest resources.
Our old webpages will automatically redirect to the new site.
Program information webinars and information booklets
The department has now completed the work to produce revised program materials. We have published a series of information webinars and information booklets to assist new students considering joining the program and legacy scheme participants considering opting in to the Program. Program materials available to participants include:
- Bonded Medical Program – Information for Prospective Students Webinar
- Prospective Student Information Booklet
- Bonded Medical Program – Information for Legacy Scheme Participants Webinar
- Legacy Scheme Participant Information Booklet
- Bonded Return of Service System (BRoSS) Webinar
These webinars and the booklets provide important information on the Program including: how to apply for/accept a place or opt in from a legacy scheme, conditions, requirements and obligations, RoSO, eligible work, using BRoSS, consequences of not meeting obligations, and where to go for support.
Progress towards resolving cases for affected individuals
The department has now allocated over 85% of all cases. The assigned case manager will have made contact with the affected individual to progress the process to resolve their case.
The department has consulted stakeholders and prioritised affected individuals as follows:
- Individuals who thought they were bonded, had completed their obligations and had exited the Program [Opt in and exit] – We have now finalised 160 of the 176 cases. The remaining 16 cases sit with the participant awaiting their decision.
- Individuals who thought they were bonded and still need to complete their Return of Service Obligation (RoSO) [Opt in and stay] – We are working through cases now. We have finalised 226 of 489 affected participants.
- Individuals who had expressed their interest to opt in and await a response [Waiting to opt-in] – We have commenced allocating the cases of affected individuals that had expressed their interest in the Program and await a response. We have finalised 225 of the 1048 affected participants.
Further detail is outlined in the table below:
|1) Opt-in and Exit
|2) Opt-in and Stay
|3) Waiting to opt-in