Tool helps untangle rural incentive payments

3 minute read

A new calculator helps young clinicians through the maze of Commonwealth subsidies.

Rural doctors are eligible for a raft of government payments, but this doesn’t mean that they’ve been easy to find or apply for – until now.

“You sometimes need to be a class A detective to find out what measures are available, and what measures you are eligible for,” Rural Doctors Association of Australia president Dr RT Lewandowski said.

(It’s almost as though the government wants to make it as difficult as possible to get money out of it. Surely not.)

Enter the RDAA Commonwealth Financial Support Calculator, a new tool that promises to help doctors sidestep the bureaucraziness of trying to navigate a government-run website.

The calculator, which is free for RDAA members, requires users to input details like the rurality of the location, their HECS debt, whether they are a GP or rural generalist registrar or fellow, any advanced skills training they have done and whether they are covering local hospital emergency.

At this stage, the calculator only shows federal government initiatives. It will be updated to keep pace with changes in incentive payments.

Dr Lewandowski said the tool was primarily aimed at junior doctors who are considering going rural.

“It [just] highlights to junior doctors that, when coupled with state-based payments and income from private general practice or rural generalist practice, a career in rural medicine can be as financially rewarding as it is professionally rewarding,” he said.

Incentives for rural doctors cover a lot of ground.

The Workforce Incentive Program – Doctor Stream provides payments between $3600 and $60,000 per year for primary care doctors working in a MM3 to 7 location.

This is separate to the Workforce Incentive Program – Rural Advanced Skills, through which primary care doctors in MM3 to 7 locations can get paid an extra $4000 to $21,000 if they use their advanced skills training, provide emergency care or do both.

Don’t confuse this with the Rural Procedural Grants Program, which provides grants of up to $32,000 to GPs and rural generalists in MM3 to 7 locations who want to upskill in surgery, anaesthetics, obstetrics, emergency medicine or emergency mental health.

Needless to say, each of these have different requirements around the length of time a recipient must work in a specific area or location in order to qualify.

But wait, there’s more!

GP registrars training outside of a major city – anywhere that’s not MM1 – are eligible to receive between $1800 and $9250 per term under the National Consistent Payments framework, but only if they’re on the Australian General Practice Training program.

Separate again is the HELP for Rural Doctors and Nurse Practitioners initiative, which slashes the HECS debt of doctors who practice in an MM3 to 7 region.

If all of these weren’t confusing enough, rural loading also applies to: payments from the Practice Incentive Program, bulk billing incentive payments and training posts with some medical colleges.

This doesn’t even touch the state- and college-based scholarships, incentive payments and grants up for grabs.

“Many of us have trouble finding time to locate eligibility and application processes for the supports and incentives that are available,” RDAA Doctors in Training chair Dr Marian Dover said.

“This calculator will be instrumental in not only recruiting more doctors to the bush but helping them to navigate the path in accessing these much-needed measures.”

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