The Bonded Medical 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 is targeted to bonded participants of the statutory Bonded Medical Program (the Program) and covers important information about reporting obligations, related compliance matters and progress towards resolving cases for affected individuals. While this does not apply specifically to participants from the Medical Rural Bonded Scholarship Scheme or the Bonded Medical Places Scheme (known as 'legacy schemes'), the information in this newsletter is useful for any legacy scheme participant who may be considering opting in to the statutory Bonded Medical Program.
Bonded Medical Program Participant reporting obligations
The Bonded Return of Service System (BRoSS) is the department's online system which assists bonded participants of the Program to plan, monitor and manage their obligations. 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.
As previously advised in Program Updates and Newsletters, Section 19 of the Rule outlined a ‘transitional provision’ in relation to reporting obligations.
On 30 June 2022, the Department published a 'notice' on its website advising that the elements of BRoSS required for you – as a bonded participant – to comply with the relevant provisions are now functional. This ended the transitional provision and bonded participants must now meet their reporting obligations.
Bonded Medical Program Participants – Important information about your RoSO Plan obligations
Bonded participants who have opted in from a legacy scheme, must have registered a RoSO plan within 3 months* of having become a bonded participant.
*Individuals that became a bonded participant on or before 30 June 2022 have until 30 September 2022 to register their RoSO plan [and to confirm any eligible work completed on or up to 30 June 2022 was completed in accordance with that RoSO Plan].
Individuals that became a bonded participant on or after 1 July 2022 have 3 months from the date they became a bonded participant to register their RoSO plan. Thereafter, any eligible work must be confirmed within 3 months of the date that it was completed.
In accordance with the Rule, your work will qualify for RoSO only if the work is eligible, the details have been registered in your RoSO plan and confirmed as being completed in accordance with the RoSO Plan – see Sections 16(1) – (3) of the Health Insurance (Bonded Medical Program) Rule 2020.
As per Section 8, any work undertaken that does not meet these requirements must not be counted towards the return of service obligation.
Further, bonded participants who do not meet their reporting obligations within the relevant deadline will be subject to an administrative penalty of $1,000 on each occasion.
Reporting obligations and compliance webinar for Bonded Medical Program Participants
On Wednesday, 7 September 2022, the department hosted a reporting obligations and compliance webinar targeted to bonded participants of the Bonded Medical Program. The webinar covered important information relevant to participation in the Program, including:
- Reporting obligations and compliance
- The transitional provision that ended on 30 June 2022 and what this means for bonded participants
- Important information about RoSO Plans
- Consequences of non-compliance and administrative penalties
- Support from Rural Workforce Agencies
- Where to find information on Program reporting obligations
- Other Program resources
Over 370 bonded participants registered for the webinar. Attendees were able to take advantage of the live questions and answers forum. The department recorded the webinar and we encourage all bonded participants to view it.
The department has also recorded a live video demonstration of BRoSS webinar to support bonded participants to self-manage their participation in the Program. The BRoSS webinar also provides frequently asked questions and answers.
Progress towards resolving cases for affected individuals
The department has allocated 100% of cases and finalised 71% of all cases, 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 169 of the 176 cases. The remaining 7 cases sit with the participant awaiting their decision.
- Individuals who thought they were bonded and still need to complete their RoSO [Opt‑in and stay] – We are working through cases now. We have finalised 437 of 546 affected participants. The majority of the remaining cases are with the participant awaiting their action.
- Individuals who expressed their interest to opt‑in and await a response [Waiting to opt-in] –this is the largest cohort of cases. We have finalised 924 of the 1437 affected participants. Again, the majority of the remaining cases are with the participant awaiting their action.
If you are a Medical Rural Bonded Scholarship Scheme or Bonded Medical Places Scheme participant who has started the process with the department to opt in to the Bonded Medical Program, there may be an email sitting in your inbox waiting to be actioned. Please check your emails and respond to the department to support completing your opt-in process.
If you have changed your email contact details, phone number or postal address and not advised the department, please do so as soon as possible.