The timeframe within which medical graduates must work in regional areas should be reduced to help address the shortage of country doctors.
One Nation leader Senator Pauline Hanson said the Bonded Medical Program, which requires graduates to practice medicine in a regional area for at least three years in exchange for a Commonwealth Supported Place in a medical course, needed to tighten obligations on graduates.
“Incredibly, under this program, graduates have 18 years after completing their degree to meet their ‘return of service obligation (RoSO)’ to practice in regional Australia,” Senator Hanson said. “The practice in regional Australia doesn’t have to be continuous – they can do a year here and six months there, part-time or full time, or even as a fly-in/fly-out doctor.
“I’m not sure this is really helping to address the critical shortage of doctors in regional, rural and remote Australia. This flexibility doesn’t really encourage a doctor to commit long-term to a regional community – some doctors may be hesitant to make such a commitment as they believe a regional placement may limit their careers.
“One Nation supported the establishment of the Rural Health Commission and prioritising positions in medical schools for students prepared to make a commitment to regional Australia. We believe that all Australians should be able to afford and access quality medical care regardless of where they live. Unfortunately, the reality for many regional communities is a significant shortage of health services and qualified professionals to provide them.
“One Nation is calling for the 18-year period in which doctors can meet their RoSO to be reduced to seven years. I’m also calling on the next Minister for Health to consider how to recover taxpayers’ contribution to a medical graduate’s studies if that person does not meet their RoSO, a condition of their supported place at medical school.
“This will more strongly encourage graduates to consider longer-term placements in regional Australia and increase the number of doctors practicing in the country, or in outer metropolitan areas also experiencing shortages of medical practitioners.
“One Nation and its policies put Australia and Australians first.”