Bonded Medical Program – Important Update

26 Mar 2021

Knowing the anxiety, fear and anger caused by emails from the Commonwealth Department of Health (DoH) to Bonded Medical Program (BMP) and Medical Rural Bonded Scholarship (MRBS) scheme participants on 16 March 2021, the AMA and AMA Council of Doctors in Training (AMACDT) has responded immediately and strongly. 

The DoH is being receptive to AMA’s engagement about the actions that must be taken to ensure the opt-in process recommences with no disadvantage to participants and is acting in good faith to find fixes.

The AMA is working closely with the Department to address these implementation issues on your behalf at a global level noting this will take time.

We understand that emails were sent to everyone who has requested to opt in to the Bonded Medical Program or who has been advised that they have opted in, or opted in and exited the Program.

If you think you should have received an email but have not, call the Department’s contact centre on 1800 987 104, Monday to Friday, 8.30 am to 5.00 pm AEDT, or email BRoSS@health.gov.au

What are our immediate objectives?

While the AMA has sought assurances from DoH about opt-in processes and communications since October 2020, the AMAs immediate objectives now are to secure a commitment from the DoH to the following principles:

  • No disadvantage.
  • No pursuit of breaches.
  • Retrospective recognition of return of service (RoS) to date of application to opt in, and that arrangements are in place to count the work undertaken to fulfil RoS obligations.
  • Targeted, reassuring, and clear communication to affected participants about what DoH is doing, where participants stand and when important actions will be taken.
  • Frequent engagement with the AMA.
  • Frequent engagement with the Bonded Medical Program Implementation Reform Working Group (IRWG) (a broad group of stakeholders including directly affected BMP and MRBS participants).

What are we doing?

The AMA is working hard to provide ‘water tight’ solutions that can be implemented as fast as possible to protect each affected individual participant. Along with demanding dramatic improvement to DoH service and communication, the general themes we are pressing DoH to address include:

  • Fixing the effect of having certified participants as having exited or opted-in when this, in law, is said to not have actually occurred (which by implication causes contemporary breach of what was understood to be superseded or ended Deed obligations).
  • Recognising eligible RoS despite opt-in application not having been processed (participants have made job / life choices based on the fair assumption that their opt-in application would be processed in a timely fashion (not up to a 12 month wait as has occurred for some).
  • Ending the opt-in pause.
  • Fixing the effect of having wrongly applied or advised participants about how the 18-year RoS completion period is calculated, including providing options for participants who think they will now run out of time to complete their RoS.

Contact the AMA

The AMA is receiving a high volume of member queries and requests for individual interventions.  While global targeted solutions will resolve the vast majority of individual cases, member are welcome to provide their feedback or request support at workforce@ama.com.au 

If you need to talk to someone

If you feel your mental health is suffering you can access support specifically tailored for doctors via the Doctors’ Health Services (DrHS) at drs4drs – getting help.