The Bonded Medical Program New Arrangement

The Government’s Bonded Programs aim to provide more Australian trained doctors in areas of workforce shortage, particularly in regional, rural and remote Australia.

Page last updated: 29 November 2019

The Bonded Medical Program was established in 2001. Under this program, there are two schemes: the Medical Rural Bonded Scholarship (MRBS) scheme and the Bonded Medical Places (BMP) scheme. From 1 January 2020, the Bonded Medical Program new arrangement (the Program) will come into effect. From this date:

  • all new applicants to the Program will enter under the new arrangement
  • existing participants will be able to choose to opt in to the Program
The Program provides students a Commonwealth Supported Place (CSP) in a medical course at an Australian university in return for a commitment to work in eligible regional, rural and remote areas for a specified period after completion of their medical course. This commitment is referred to as a Return of Service Obligation (RoSO).

The Program is a critical component of the Government’s Stronger Rural Health Strategy to ensure that the Australian trained medical workforce is well-distributed, flexible and targeted to areas of most need. The Department of Health (Health) acknowledges the commitment made by Bonded Medical Program participants to regional, rural and remote Australia.

Key features of the Bonded Medical Program new arrangement

The key features of the Program are:

  • a standard three (3) year Return of Service Obligation (RoSO) to be completed over an eighteen (18) year period. Participants of the BMP scheme 2016-2019 cohort who have a twelve (12) month RoSO will keep this under the new arrangement
  • replacement of the individual contract/deed of agreement with a statutory scheme
  • a Program specific web portal, the Bonded Return of Service System (BRoSS) to provide self-service management of RoSO
  • a wide range of options as to when, where and how you choose to complete your RoSO within the Program’s required timeframe and requirements. 18 months can be completed pre-fellowship and 18 months completed post fellowship. RoSO can be non-continuous, full or part-time work, and fly in/ fly out work in eligible locations may be counted towards RoSO
  • more choice and more locations with participants able to complete their RoSO in Modified Monash Model (MMM) 2-7 locations, and in Distribution Priority Areas (DPA) for General Practitioners or District of Workforce Shortage (DWS) for Specialists for their medical speciality
  • no restrictions on the work you undertake. Participants can choose to work in areas which do not count towards RoSO during the 18 year period whilst they undertake their RoSO

Legislation

Participants of the Program are bounded by Part VD of the Health Insurance Act 1973 (Act) and must abide by the Health Insurance (Bonded Medical Program) Rule 2020 (Rule).

The Act received royal assent on 19 September 2019 following its passage in the Senate on 4 July 2019 and the House of Representatives on 11 September 2019.

Health consulted with stakeholders including representatives from the Australian Medical Association (AMA); Australian Medical Students Association (AMSA); Rural Workforce Agencies (RWA); National Rural Health Students Network (NRHSN); current bonded doctors and students on the Rule. Health acknowledges stakeholder support and appreciates their assistance in this work.

The Rule provides more detail to assist participants to make an informed decision to opt in to the Program. It was signed by Minister Hunt on 20 November 2019.

Bonded Return of Service System (BRoSS)

The Bonded Return of Service System (BRoSS), Health’s web portal, is being developed to support the Program. BRoSS will allow bonded students and doctors to self-manage their RoSO and identify eligible locations where they can work.

Features of BRoSS will be released throughout 2020. The first phase, commencing 1 January 2020, will be made available to 23 Australian universities where they will use BRoSS to manage the new applicants firm offer lists.

The next phase, planned for the first quarter of 2020, will provide the ability for current participants to opt in to the Program through BRoSS.

Self-management of RoSO including planning and recording of events are currently in development and will be released progressively through the first half of 2020.

Role of Rural Workforce Agencies

Rural Workforce Agencies (RWA) in the relevant State or Territory will provide support to Program participants. RWAs can assist with placement into rural roles that are eligible for RoSO. They will also provide information about professional development, rural medical network support and access to grants.

Further information and useful resources

There are a variety of fact sheets, frequently asked questions and links to resource material available on the Bonded Medical Program New Arrangement Resource page.