Steve Irons MP Federal Member for Swan

Western Australia receives boost to attract doctors

25 May 2015

Federal Member for Swan Steve Irons has welcomed today’s announcement that 39 towns in Western Australia are among 450 country towns across Australia who will now find it easier to attract doctors under an overhauled GP Rural Incentives Program (GPRIP).

“By overhauling the GPRIP, this will ensure smaller rural communities are able to more easily attract and retain GPs, as money will be redirected to smaller towns that have genuine difficulty attracting and retaining doctors,” Mr Irons said.

“As Chair of the House of Representatives Standing Committee on Health I know how difficult it can be to attract doctors to rural and remote areas in the first instance, and to retain them is generally even harder.

“That’s why I believe this Program overhaul, combined with the Prime Minister’s announcement last week that the Commonwealth, in partnership with the WA State Government and Curtin University, will fund a new medical school for the University, will ensure WA is best placed to meet our future health care needs.”

Mr Irons said it made no sense that under the Labor system, some $50 million a year was being used to pay incentives for doctors to live in 14 large regional cities, including Townsville (population 175,000) and Cairns (population 145,000). This money will now be spent attracting doctors to towns such as Gingin, Augusta, Waroona, Tom Price and Katanning.

Minister Nash said it made more sense to use the GPRIP funding to attract doctors to where the greatest shortages are – small rural and remote communities, not big regional cities.

“This means bigger incentive payments will go to doctors who choose to work in the areas of greatest need,” Minister Nash said.

“For decades, Australia’s small rural towns have struggled to attract enough doctors. This change is one way we’re tackling that. As a proud rural Australian, I’m pleased to have been able to deliver this important reform.”

The highest incentive paid to work in remote Australia will jump from $47,000 a year to $60,000 a year. The maximum incentive to work in a town of less than 5,000 in regional Australia will increase from $18,000 to $23,000.

Other changes include:

  • Doctors will be able to take leave from a rural practice for up to five years with no loss of incentive status on their return;
  • Four existing programs have been streamlined into a single GPRIP retention payment; and doctors will need to stay in a rural or regional area longer – two years up from the current six months – before they receive the incentive.
  • Doctors in remote areas will receive incentive payments after a year.
  • The new incentive arrangements will start from 1 July 2015.

For more information and the list of towns that will receive higher incentives under the redesigned GPRIP, please visit www.ruralhealthaustralia.gov.au

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