The latest annual Medicare report shows the Government's HECS Reimbursement Scheme, designed to attract graduates to rural areas, is failing to realise its full potential. $5.95 million dollars per annum is allocated to the scheme, but the new figures show it is being underspent by $3.25 million each year.
AMSA National President Mr. Rob Mitchell today said, "The HECS Reimbursement Scheme is a positive program, but would be substantially improved if the rebate to junior doctors was increased. However, it strikes me that the scheme has been underspent by such an extraordinary amount of money. This sum could be better utilised in other workforce programs, such as the Bonded Medical Places scheme."
The Bonded Medical Places (BMP) scheme bonds medical graduates to areas of workforce need without any financial incentive.
"AMSA has been calling for incentives such as HECS relief to be built into the BMP scheme for a long time. Without meaningful rewards, this scheme will not result in long-term retention of medical graduates in areas of workforce need," said Mr. Mitchell.
"We applaud Labor's decision to increase the number of John Flynn Scholarship places available to medical students. The evidence clearly demonstrates that positive, well-supported experiences early on in undergraduate training result in students returning to rural and regional areas to work.
"What the BMP scheme desperately needs in order to achieve that same goal is positive incentives such as HECS relief. The $3.25 million sitting in the bank left over from the HECS Reimbursement Scheme would contribute significantly to the annual HECS burden accrued by BMP students.
"We must be smarter about our funding allocations for workforce schemes. It makes no sense to waste this amount of money when it could be used so effectively in other programs.
"AMSA is calling on both the Coalition and Labor to commit to prospective HECS relief for BMP students. This program must have this type of incentive built in if it is to have any chance of succeeding in its aim to attract and retain medical graduates in rural and remote areas."