Bonding reform welcome but more support needed
RELAXING the “draconian” obligations of bonded medical places is a good start but more reform is needed, medical groups say.Under federal government changes announced last week, students in the Bonded Medical Places Scheme will no longer have to serve a compulsory six-year term in a designated area of workforce shortage.
Instead, the period of bonding students must undertake in return for one of 500 HECS-funded medical school places will be equal to the length of their degree.
Students will also be able to offset up to half their bonding period during pre-vocational and vocational training.
RDAA immediate past-president Dr Ross Maxwell welcomed the changes to the formerly “onerous” and “unreasonable” scheme but said more financial support for those students was needed.
“Bonding works [if] it... provides good conditions for the doctors while they are training and good professional experience for the doctors after they graduate,” he said.
AMA president Dr Rosanna Capolingua said the changes made the scheme “less draconian” but would not solve the “rural medical workforce crisis”.
Incentives needed to be introduced to the scheme, such as HECS relief and scholarships, to help students financially and make it more attractive, she said.
However, Australian Medical Students’ Association (AMSA) president Rob Mitchell, who called for the changes back in March, said they would go some way to increasing the recruitment and retention of doctors in areas of workforce shortage.
An AMSA survey earlier this year revealed 25% of bonded students were so unhappy with the scheme that they were willing to pay $70,000 to $100,000 to buy their way out (MO, 16 March).
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