Medical student Matthew Brown and Member for Lyne Dr David Gillespie discuss regional doctors

Future doctors: Courtney Rasmussen, Shannon Ridgeway, Matthew Brown and Grayson Genn with Member for Lyne Dr David Gillespie (centre) at Taree's Newcastle University Health Education campus. Photo: Scott Calvin.
Future doctors: Courtney Rasmussen, Shannon Ridgeway, Matthew Brown and Grayson Genn with Member for Lyne Dr David Gillespie (centre) at Taree's Newcastle University Health Education campus. Photo: Scott Calvin.

The ripple effect of new rule changes to Medicare will see more junior doctors head to regional areas to train.

That’s the vision of Member for Lyne Dr David Gillespie who announced that as of July 1, junior doctors who complete a second degree (vocational training) can bill on Medicare at a financially viable rate.

Dr Gillespie said the measure is part of the Federal Government’s Stronger Rural Health Strategy that aims to bring more junior doctors to the area in the coming years.

“The new initiatives announced in the Rural Health Strategy will mean many more doctors in regional Australia, particularly in beautiful places like the Manning.

“It’s financially viable for junior doctors to start their general practice training in regional towns.

“We used to give a free kick to overseas doctors to come without the second degree and they could bill full Medicare.

“As an Aussie graduate you couldn’t, you only got 50 per cent so consequently no one did it.

“It is a very practical incentive for people to train in regional towns and cities,” Dr Gillespie said. 

Dr Gillespie spearheaded the package when he was Assistant Health Minister.

“It’s really pleasing to see that we’re getting some common sense and practical applications to make training as a doctor viable in regional towns and cities,” Dr Gillespie said.

You can try and encourage students to come back to those areas where you draw them from.

Matthew Brown, medical student

“If they want to go to Wynter Street (Medical Centre) and be like a GP (general practitioner) resident, they can bill 80 per cent of full Medicare which means it’s viable for the practice and viable for them.”

Matthew Brown is one of many medical students who have trained out of Taree’s Newcastle University Health Education campus.

With aspirations to become a general practitioner, Mr Brown has welcomed the news. 

“It’s very important as you can see the issues we have with rural health disadvantage, difficulties with being able to recruit to the area and the people in those communities who suffer.

“You can try and encourage students to come back to those areas where you draw them from.

“Any sort of initiative or schemes to reroute those doctors to regional areas is only a good thing for the people,” Mr Brown said. 

He highlighted the benefits for other general practitioners who are keen to ply their trade outside of the hospital setting.

“I think being able to get out into the community and have talks with patients and being able to communicate better than what you can in patient medicine.

“In the hospital system, it is quite difficult to recruit consultants to those areas. Junior doctors are put in those areas,” Mr Brown said.