What to Expect Living & Working in Rural Australia Under 10-Year-Moratorium


What is a Rural GP?

A Rural General Practitioner (GP) is a significant role within Australia. With many doctors and professionals preferring to offer their services within cities, as a rural GP, you will be aiding in providing healthcare for a number of people whom, without you, may be unable to reach medical care – with approximately 20% being unable to see a GP, and over 60% claiming to be unable to see a specialist, due to a lack of medical professionals within remote areas.

As a rural generalist, you are not only regarded as a specialist in your area, but also an important figure within the community. The scope of practice that you can expect ranges from in-hospital practice to private room consultations, you could be both emergency medicine and primary health care provider within this role.

You may experience a larger Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander patient base, as well as a higher chance of encountering complex and chronic health conditions. While your work would still adhere to the core curriculum set by the RACGP, the scope of engagement and experience is much wider. Specific skill sets are required in different rural areas and as such you can expect to enhance or advance your level of understanding in a variety of skills.

Many medical professionals choose not to work rurally due to their support networks, including family and friends, being based within metropolitan areas. However, the Australian Government offer many incentives for those willing to relocate including additional training support with The Remote Vocational Training Scheme and financial benefits through The Workforce Incentive Program, and more.

As of 2018, Australia has implemented medical student immersions into rural practices across seven of its universities, including New South Wales and Victoria. Not only can you expect to be integrated into welcoming, remote communities, but you will also be contributing to a class of doctors providing exceptional, specialised, medical care where it is needed.

 

What is the 10-Year-Moratorium?

Working as an IMG (International Medical Graduate) in Australia can be both rewarding and complicated work. The 10-year-moratorium, also referred to as 19AB, restricts your access to Medicare billing, dictating where and when you can work.

As an international medical student, whether you have been awarded your degree outside of Australia and New Zealand or you are an international student working towards your degree within Australia, your access to Medicare prohibits where you can earn a living for your practices.

Under 19AB, a GP must not only maintain their vocational status by remaining in education, but you must also work in a DPA (Distribution Priority Area). To view locations that you can work in, you can use the Health Workforce Locator tool which can identify areas that doctors are needed and where restrictions do not apply.

The ten-year-moratorium starts on the first day of medical registration and ends when you become a permanent citizen of Australia – with the expectation that all medical graduates who complete the ten years would be eligible for permanent citizenship. If you do not, however, become a permanent citizen then the ten-year-moratorium extends until you achieve permanent residency.

However, there is some flexibility available. While the moratorium is always ten years you could achieve a class exemption for the remainder, which should only be considered if you have a pathway to permanent residency. One approach would be to take further remote placements, as opposed to semi-remote ones - the more remote a placement is, the quicker you can build up ‘scaling credits’.

Likewise, the restrictions imposed by the moratorium may not always affect you. As trainee doctors or those acting as hospital consultants, you would not need to worry about Medicare billing restrictions. Likewise, you may not need access to Medicare for the duration of these initial ten years - particularly if you spend some of the moratorium in education, you can find the time passing quicker than expected!

 

What is Life Like as a Rural GP?

Life as a rural generalist comes with many benefits including finding a tight-knit sense of community and fulfillment, something which would be difficult to find within the more metropolitan settings of urban Australia.

A day in the life of a rural doctor may include many areas of medicine. From general consultations to anaesthesiology, you can never predict what the day may hold. As a rural doctor, each day will differ and as such, you can expect to grow in confidence and skill at a much higher rate, using a wider range of medical knowledge to treat even the most out-there emergencies. Working remotely enhances your skills as you will be expected to provide a higher range of medical practices, as well as adapting to new scenarios and sceneries daily.

You can also expect higher Locum rates, as the demand for your specialised skills will be higher in rural areas. Another benefit of these demands in skill is the community response to your work – the continuity of care that you can provide will be highly valued within the further reaches of Australia.

Living conditions as a rural doctor are also advantageous. With beautiful scenery and larger accommodations available, managing work and home life is easier within remote communities. Not to mention that, depending on your placement, you could be five minutes from a beach as soon as you leave work!

While rural GP work may take some adjustment, the pace is more flexible. With little-to-no admin outside of consultations, you can find time to enjoy the beautiful locations around you. A heightened focus on face-to-face consultations, adjusted for covid regulations, means you can interact with your community in a positive, hands-on, and useful way.

And it must be remembered that while you are a rural GP, you do not have to remain within remote areas consistently. There is the option to manage a mix of remote and city-based contracts.

On the whole, becoming a general practitioner in rural and remote Australia can be an incredibly rewarding and, professionally, beneficial placement - the 10-year-moratorium may benefit you as much as it benefits Australia’s rural communities. 

 

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