To support doctors responding to the COVID-19 pandemic the Department of Health is implementing a number of short term measures to waive or streamline Medicare program requirements. These measures will ensure eligible doctors can continue to satisfy their obligations under section 19AA and 19AB of the Health Insurance Act 1973 and provide Medicare services to patients in their current practice.
When designing the measures the key considerations were promoting a safe, quality health workforce force; removing barriers and administrative obligations; and maintaining continuity of services to the community.
What will be done?
The measures include an automatic 6 month extension of s3GA placements and 19AB exemptions expiring from 1 May 2020, including extension of locum placements. These extensions will be processed on a month-by-month basis (approximately 6 weeks in advance of expiry) and all extensions will be confirmed with each doctor via letter or email. No application form will be required for these extensions.
Note that there are some conditions attached to these changes, which are detailed in the attached table. In addition, doctors who are within 6 months of reaching the maximum participation period will be reviewed by the Department before an extension is granted. The review will include consideration of a doctor’s prior 3GA program participation and progress to fellowship (including exam history). Doctors who are not granted an extension will be notified by email/letter by the Department.
The Department is also waiving program requirements that can no longer be met due to the current circumstances, including:
– All program milestones will be suspended for 6 months ie doctors will not need to complete fellowship exams or apply to college led fellowship programs.
– Extensions will not count towards program participation maximum
– For current AMDS doctors, evidence of Advanced Life Support re-certification will be waived for 6 months.
The attached Summary of Changes document explains the changes and any conditions. I have also attached a Q and A document which provides information on some possible questions individuals may have.
How long for?
While we anticipate these extensions will continue for up to 6 months, the Department will review the need for such changes regularly and will cease these measures when no longer required. Any placement already extended will remain in place until the amended expiry date.
We appreciate that the doctors and medical practices across Australia are currently facing significant pressures due to increased workloads and reduced workforce availability. Many of these practices are in Distribution Priority Areas (DPAs) and Districts of Workforce Shortage (DWS), and were already facing significant challenges. As the COVID-19 situation continues to evolve, one of the main priorities of the Australian Government is to ensure workforce distribution measures are not impacted in order to maintain workforce in communities most in need, particularly in rural and remote areas. This includes maintaining legislative requirements around 19AA and 19AB for all new applications. It is important that doctors who are required to work in a DPA or a DWS are not drawn away from these communities in need.