20 Jun 2012

Rural GPs worry voluntary bonds not working

10:45 am on 20 June 2012

Rural doctors say they are concerned that the Government's voluntary health bonding scheme may be doing little to overcome the chronic shortage of doctors in rural practices.

Under the bonding scheme, newly-qualified doctors, nurses and midwives can get their student loans reduced by working in hard to staff communities and specialties for three to five years.

Loan benefits under the scheme have just been expanded to include radiation therapists and medical physicists.

Health Minister, Tony Ryall, says 278 graduates have so far had their applications approved and the Government has already paid out about $1.5 million in payments to graduates who have completed their first three years on the scheme.

But the Rural General Practice Network chair, Dr Jo Scott-Jones, says the network is worried because it's unaware of any junior doctors who have taken the voluntary bonding option so far, to help support them into a rural general practice career.

Dr Scott-Jones says it appears those taking up voluntary bonding are going into hospital positions rather than rural general practices.

He says the GP network wants to see more focus on a rural primary care scheme.