Bonded Medical Program Newsletter – June 2022

This newsletter outlines important information on participant reporting obligations and the extension of the ‘no disadvantage’ principle to legacy scheme participants that are waiting to opt-in to the Program.

Date published:
Audience:
Health sector

The Bonded Medical Program (the Program) is a critical component of the Stronger Rural Health Strategy to ensure that the Australian trained medical workforce is well-distributed and targeted to areas of workforce shortage.

By completing their return of service obligation (RoSO), bonded participants ensure more equitable access to health services and make a valuable contribution to the health of Australians living in regional, rural and remote communities.

This newsletter includes important information about the continued implementation of the Program.

Important information about participant reporting obligations

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. Bonded participants are responsible for ensuring their BRoSS record is up-to-date and that it contains information and evidence relevant to their participation in the Program.

Section 19 of the Health Insurance (Bonded Medical Program) Rule 2020 (the Rule) outlines a ‘transitional provision’ in relation to reporting obligations. The purpose of this transitional provision was to ensure that bonded participants would not be required to comply with their reporting obligations until BRoSS was functional.

The necessary elements to support bonded participants are now functional in BRoSS and therefore the transitional provision for reporting obligations will end.

The Department published on its website, on 30 June 2022, a 'notice' advising that the transitional provision has ended and bonded participant reporting obligations will commence.  As outlined in Section s19 (4) – (7) of the Rule, for events that incurred during the period from when a bonded participant joined the Program, up to 30 June 2022, participants will have 3 or 6 months (depending on the event) to log into BRoSS and update their records to meet their reporting obligations.

Bonded participants are encouraged to log in to BRoSS and update their records as soon as possible. As stipulated in the Rule, bonded participants who do not meet their reporting obligations will be subject to an administrative penalty of $1,000 on each occasion.

Further information on bonded participants’ reporting obligations can be found by following the links provided above.

Extension of the ‘no disadvantage’ principle

The department continues to process requests from legacy scheme participants to opt-in to the Program and will apply the ‘no disadvantage principle’ to any eligible legacy scheme participant from the date they expressed their interest, in writing to the department, to opt-in to the statutory Program.

Any eligible work (i.e. work completed that is compliant with the requirements of the Program) completed by a legacy scheme participant in good faith, will be counted as RoSO under the Program to ensure no disadvantage is applied to their circumstances while they wait to opt-in.

The no disadvantage approach also includes managing any related breaches that legacy scheme participants may have incurred whilst waiting to opt-in to the Program, including the waiver of any associated financial liability associated with those breaches.

It is important that all legacy scheme participants continue to comply with the requirements of their legacy scheme contract or deed of agreement.

For any legacy scheme participant who may be considering a change to their work activities, if the new activity is in an ineligible location as stipulated within their legacy scheme contract or agreement, they should apply for a deferral to ensure any change they make won’t be in breach of their current contract or agreement. Medical Rural Bonded Scholarship Scheme participants must obtain approval for deferral of their RoSO or simultaneous work approval before commencing work in any ineligible area.  Further information on seeking a deferral is included in this earlier update.

The department is committed to working with all legacy scheme participants to complete the opt-in process; correctly and as quickly as possible.

The department continues to process requests from legacy scheme participants to opt-in to the Program and will apply the ‘no disadvantage principle’ to any eligible legacy scheme participant from the date they expressed their interest, in writing to the department, to opt-in to the statutory Program.

Any eligible work (i.e. work completed that is compliant with the requirements of the Program) completed by a legacy scheme participant in good faith, will be counted as RoSO under the Program to ensure no disadvantage is applied to their circumstances while they wait to opt-in.

The no disadvantage approach also includes managing any related breaches that legacy scheme participants may have incurred whilst waiting to opt-in to the Program, including the waiver of any associated financial liability associated with those breaches.

It is important that all legacy scheme participants continue to comply with the requirements of their legacy scheme contract or deed of agreement.

For any legacy scheme participant who may be considering a change to their work activities, if the new activity is in an ineligible location as stipulated within their legacy scheme contract or agreement, they should apply for a deferral to ensure any change they make won’t be in breach of their current contract or agreement. Medical Rural Bonded Scholarship Scheme participants must obtain approval for deferral of their RoSO or simultaneous work approval before commencing work in any ineligible area.  Further information on seeking a deferral is included in this earlier update.

The department is committed to working with all legacy scheme participants to complete the opt-in process; correctly and as quickly as possible.

Section 19 of the Health Insurance (Bonded Medical Program) Rule 2020 states:

Part 4—Transitional provisions

19  Reporting obligations

(1)  For this section, a relevant provision is a provision of this rule that requires information or evidence to be provided through the Department’s web portal.

(2)  A bonded participant is not required to comply with a relevant provision unless a notice has been published for the purposes of this section on the Department’s website stating that the elements of the Department’s web portal required for a bonded participant to comply with the relevant provision are functional.

(3)  For this section, the date of publication of the notice mentioned in subsection (2) is the notice date for the relevant provision.

(4)  For the purposes of section 15, where a notifiable event occurred before the notice date for the relevant provision, the bonded participant is taken to comply with the provision if the information or evidence is uploaded within 6 months after the notice date.

(5)  For the purposes of column 1, items 1 to 3 of the table in subsection 16(1), where the event to be reported occurred before the notice date for the relevant provision, the bonded participant is taken to comply with the provision if the information or evidence is uploaded within 3 months after the notice date.

(6)  For the purposes of column 1, item 4(a) of the table in subsection 16(1), where a bonded participant completed their course of study in medicine before the notice date for the relevant provision, the bonded participant is taken to comply with the provision if the information or evidence is uploaded every 6 months from the notice date.

(7)  For the purposes of column 1, item 4(b) of the table in subsection 16(1), where a bonded participant opted in to the Bonded Medical Program before the notice date for the relevant provision, the bonded participant is taken to comply with the provision if the information or evidence is uploaded every 6 months from the notice date.

(8)  This section ceases to operate on 30 June 2022.

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