As highlighted in earlier updates, the process to resolve cases involves understanding the affected individual’s personal circumstances since they were not correctly bonded in 2020. This includes thorough assessment of both recent and historic actions taken.
To address feedback from affected individuals and from stakeholders, this newsletter provides further information on how the department is applying the ‘no disadvantage’ approach and how cases are being prioritised.
We appreciate your patience as we work through the complexity of each individual‘s personal circumstances to resolve each case as quickly as possible.
How is the department applying the 'no disadvantage' principle?
The following information builds on information contained in our July 2021 Update.
The department recognises that, since implementation commenced, individuals that sought to opt in to the Program – including those that were not correctly bonded during 2020 – have changed their work activities assuming they were, or would be, correctly bonded by now.
The department continues to apply the no disadvantage approach to those participants who completed eligible work (i.e. work completed that is compliant with the requirements of the Program), in good faith by counting this work towards the RoSO under the Program.
The no disadvantage approach includes managing any breaches that may have occurred since the start of 2020 in relation to the implementation issues. It also includes the waiver of any 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.
The department recognises that some legacy scheme participants may be considering a change to their work activities in the next few months. If the new work activity is not compliant with your legacy scheme agreement, you should apply for a deferral to ensure that any change you make won’t breach your current agreement. Advice on seeking a deferral is in the June 2021 Update.
Thereafter, the department will work with you to understand your personal circumstances. We will consider any eligible work (i.e. work completed that is compliant with the requirements of the Program) completed in good faith and ensure that it is counted towards the RoSO under the Program.
How the department is prioritising and resolving individual cases
In agreement with stakeholders – including the Australian Medical Association and the Australian Medical Students’ Association – the department has prioritised affected individuals as follows:
- Individuals who thought they were bonded, had completed their obligations and had exited the Program;
- Individuals who thought they were bonded and still need to complete their RoSO; and
- Individuals who had expressed their interest to opt in and await a response.
The department has resolved the majority of cases in Group 1 and is now working through Group 2.
While we continue to resolve these cases, the department has identified opportunities to simultaneously progress some cases in addition to resolving the priority groups. Initially, these new sub-groups include:
- participants without any breaches who have completed 3 years RoSO and have satisfied the requirements of the Program;
- individuals seeking deferrals under their legacy scheme agreement while also waiting to opt in; and
- final year medical students seeking to commence RoSO in an initial work placement.
Progressing these cases can be undertaken in an administratively efficient way and does not reduce the department’s capacity to resolve cases of prioritised affected individuals.
New email arrangements – how this is working
Our August 2021 Update outlined the department’s new processes to manage timely responses to Program and legacy scheme participant enquiries and requests by moving to a single mailbox: BondedMedicalProgram@health.gov.au.
Most participants are now using the new mailbox and applying the correct subject convention. As previously advised, we have decommissioned legacy mailboxes and are no longer responding to emails that do not follow the correct naming convention: ‘[Scheme/Program] – [Participant name] – [Request type]'.