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12 January, 2022

Practitioners get uni debt wiped if working rural

Doctors and nurse practitioners now have the chance to have their university debt wiped by the federal government, if they choose to work in a regional, rural, or remote community.

By Emily Middleton

Via Unsplash

This could mean up to $100,000 back to some students. The new scheme is aimed at attracting, and keeping, more health professionals in isolated areas.

However, there are a few conditions.

If the practitioners are in a remote community, they must work for at least 24 hours a week, for a period equivalent to half the length of their degree.

Practitioners in rural and regional areas will need to work the same number of hours over a period as long as their degree.

Alongside this new incentive, GP practices in towns throughout regional, rural, and remote Australia, will have more options and a larger pool of doctors to choose from, following changes announced by the federal government in recent weeks.

From January 1, 2022, there will be automatic access to the distribution priority area (DPA) classification for regional and larger rural towns, to make it easier for areas to recruit more doctors.

The DPA classification identifies locations in Australia with a shortage of doctors. Currently, only rural and remote communities receive automatic DPA status.

Other locations are assessed annually to see whether the health services for the population meet a service benchmark. If access is under the benchmark, a town is classified as a DPA, and clinics in that area can employ doctors subject to a moratorium, such as those who have trained overseas.

Students who have accepted a commonwealth supported place in an Australian medical course in return for a commitment to work in a regional, rural, and remote area at the end of their studies must also work in a DPA.

“Short term, this means that practices can begin reaching out to overseas doctors who want to move to the regions and practise there,” said federal regional health minister, Dr David Gillespie.

“I know that regional and rural practices will be working hard to take full advantage of this significant change. It will help ensure rural and regional areas have a choice of more doctors to work in their local communities, leading to increased access to GP and primary care services for many thousands of Australians in regional and rural communities.”

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