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12 May 2015

Mixed-bag Budget for rural health sector:
Rural doctors search for fine details in Health Budget

The Rural Doctors Association of Australia (RDAA) has commenced a search for fine details on rural health budget items following tonight's Federal Budget.
"We have only just been able to access the Health Budget papers online late on Budget night — as such, we have only been able to read the Budget papers in general terms" RDAA President, Professor Dennis Pashen, said.
"Pending the fine details, we welcome:
  • Re-development of the General Practice Rural Incentives Programme in
    2015-16 to better support delivery of medical services in rural and remote communities. We welcome the Government's announcement that financial support will be targeted to doctors practising in areas that experience the greatest difficulty in attracting and retaining doctors. This will include a move to the Modified Monash Model (replacing the troubled Australian Standard Geographical Classification - Remoteness Areas system) as the rural classification system on which these incentives are based. This is an issue on which RDAA has lobbied over many years.
  • The return of the management of after-hours incentive payments to the Practice Incentive Payments program in 2015-16 — we welcome this in general terms, as it should return funding and contract certainty for rural practices in relation to the provision of after-hours services.
  • The previously announced trial of an opt-out eHealth system, to be renamed the My Health system. We welcome this in-principle, and recognition of the need to support doctors and practices should an opt-out system be adopted.
  • Additional funding for the Royal Flying Doctor Service.

"We note that:
  • There will be $1.7 billion in efficiencies over 4 years for the Federal Health Department, including in the Flexible Funds program. We await the details on which programs may be affected, and we are concerned to see how this will impact on various regional and rural health programs.
  • There will be a consolidation of medical, nursing and allied health scholarships — at this stage, we need to see the fine details of this before commenting further.
"We are disappointed that there has been no announcement regarding the introduction of a program to replace the Prevocational General Practice Placements Program (PGPPP).

"Experience for junior doctors in rural general practice was previously provided through the PGPPP. This was widely acknowledged as being a highly effective program for introducing junior doctors to the rewarding career that is rural general practice, and many current rural doctors were recruited to a career in rural general practice as a direct result of it.
"We believe the Government can see benefit in providing junior doctors with the chance to experience general practice and rural general practice. However, we fear we are losing many potential future rural doctors, simply because there is not an initiative in place to provide them with prevocational rural general practice experience.
"We will consider the budget papers in detail over the coming days, and will provide subsequent comment."
A high resolution photograph of Professor Pashen is available by clicking here.
Pre and post-budget media interviews are available with:
  • various RDAA representatives, including RDAA President, Professor Dennis Pashen and RDAA CEO, Jenny Johnson
  • representatives of the state Rural Doctors Associations 
Media contacts:
Patrick Daley on 0408 004 890 / Jenny Johnson on 0429 931 120.

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