The Rural Locum Relief Program allows doctors, who are permanent residents or Australian citizens, to access a Medicare provider number to work in rural and remote areas while they are working towards Fellowship.

Background

In the 1996 Budget initiatives, restrictions on access to Medicare provider numbers and Medicare benefits for newly graduated medical practitioners were introduced under Section 19AA of the Health Insurance Act 1973 (the Act).

The intent of the restrictions was to ensure that new medical graduates met certain proficiency standards before being able to provide services that attract Medicare benefits.

Medical practitioners affected by the provider number restrictions are required to be enrolled in an approved workforce or training program approved under Section 3GA of the Act, in order to attract Medicare benefits whilst providing medical services in rural and remote Australia.

The Rural Locum Relief Program (RLRP) is an approved program under Section 3GA of the Act and has been administered by Rural Workforce Agencies in each State and the Northern Territory since 1998.

Scope

The RLRP allows medical practitioners, in rural areas who are subject to Section 19AA of the Act and who meet eligibility criteria of the program, to have temporary access to A2 Medicare rebates when providing short term services through approved placements.

The RLRP is essentially a workforce measure and is not intended as a specific mechanism for education.

The objectives of the RLRP are to:

  • Attract suitably qualified and experienced medical practitioners to work in general practice in rural and remote Australia; and
  • Provide a means by which medical practitioners restricted by section 19AA of the Act can access Medicare benefits for general practice services provided as part of, and in accordance with, an approved placement under section 3GA of the Act.

Eligibility

Applicants eligible for the RLRP fall into two broad categories:

  • Category 1 applicants:
    Australian and New Zealand graduates, Australian Citizens and Permanent Resident Overseas Trained Doctors (OTDs) who are subject to section 19AA of the Act only.
  • Category 2 applicants:
    Australian Citizens, Permanent Resident OTDs and foreign graduates of an accredited medical school who are subject to both sections 19AA and 19AB of the Act.

All applicants will be assessed by Rural Health West in accordance with the following criteria:

  • Have applied knowledge in general practice, at least the equivalent to that of a doctor entering Australian general practice vocational training or two years Australian equivalent general practice experience. 
  • Have skills and experience appropriate for the position.
  • Able to provide person centred, continuing, comprehensive and coordinated whole-person health care to individuals, families and communities.
  • Have medical registration appropriate for the position.
  • Must commit to appropriate clinical support and mentoring throughout the placement.
  • Those on longer term placements must undertake appropriate education and training to obtain postgraduate qualifications in general practice.
  • Have skills and experience to be able to achieve Fellowship of either the Australian College of Rural and Remote Medicine or the Royal Australian College of General Practitioners within the four year time limit of the RLRP. 

Eligible areas for placements

Eligibility of locations under the RLRP is based on the Rural, Remote and Metropolitan Areas (RRMA) classification of the location. In addition, placements under the RLRP will be in areas that require medical practitioners who offer primary, continuing, comprehensive, whole-person care for individuals, families and communities.

Category 1 placements are located in:

  • small rural and remote areas and large remote centres (RRMA 4, 5, 6, and 7);
  • large rural centres (RRMA 3);
  • “Areas of Consideration” (as determined by the Minister for Health and Medical Research); and
  • all Aboriginal Medical Services (including RRMA 1 or 2).

Category 2 placements are located in:

  • small rural and remote areas and large remote centres (RRMA 4, 5, 6, and 7) in districts of workforce shortage only;
  • large rural centres (RRMA 3) that are districts of workforce shortage only;
  • “Areas of Consideration”; and
  • all Aboriginal Medical Services (including RRMA 1 or 2).

Applications

The medical practitioner seeking a placement on the RLRP is responsible for submitting all necessary paperwork to Rural Health West at least six weeks prior to their proposed commencement, including supporting documentation.

There are no circumstances under which the Department of Health will be able to grant a ‘backdated’ placement approval.

To request an application form, please contact Rural Health West on telephone 08 6389 4500 or email workforceservices@ruralhealthwest.com.au

Whilst undertaking a longer-term placement on the RLRP, medical practitioners may be eligible to receive education and support to obtain Fellowship by joining the Additional Assistance Exam Support Scheme

Applicant guidelines 

For more information on the Rural Locum Relief Program, please view the Australian Government Department of Health Program Guidelines.