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Medicare extended for those living in regional and rural Australia.



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Media Release Dr Michael Wooldridge Minister for Health and Aged Care

MW97/00 27 October 2000

MEDICARE EXTENDED FOR THOSE LIVING IN REGIONAL AND RURAL AUSTRALIA The Federal Government has committed $38 million over four years to provide people living in rural and remote Australia enhanced access to primary health care services, Federal Minister for Health, Dr Michael Wooldridge, announced today.

In Longreach with National Party Senate Leader, Ron Boswell, Dr Wooldridge said country Australians will now benefit from the extension of the full Medicare rebate to GP services provided by Other Medical Practitioners - often referred to as 'OMPs'.

Other Medical Practitioners are doctors whose qualifications do not recognise them as specialist GPs. Currently, OMPs attract a lower Medicare rebate for GP consultations which means greater out-of-pocket expenses for rural patients.

"This is a fantastic outcome for rural Australians. It means country patients will now be eligible for the higher Medicare rebate when they visit their local GP, regardless of whether the GP is vocationally recognised or not," Dr Wooldridge said.

"OMPs are an important part of the health workforce in rural and remote areas where an undersupply of GPs exists. Very shortly their contribution to the delivery of health services in rural Australia will be recognised when the Medicare rebate for their consultation will increase by $5.10 to $22.95," Dr Wooldridge said.

Dr Wooldridge also welcomed the constructive and unified approach taken by the medical profession to support the development of alternative pathways for Other Medical Practitioners to achieve vocational registration by the end of 2001.

"I will also be asking the profession to work with the new Board of General Practice Education and Training to explore options for alternative and more flexible pathways for these doctors," he said.

The new Board, which will be representative of key stakeholders involved in general practice education and training, will work closely with the profession to develop these pathways to recognition as a GP. As key stakeholders, the Royal Australian College of General Practitioners and the Australian College of Rural and Remote Medicine will be included in this work.

"The combination of access to the higher Medicare rebate, and access to more flexible

pathways to recognition as a GP, will assist in the recruitment and retention of quality doctors in regional Australia," Dr Wooldridge said.

Media Contact: Craig Simonetto, Dr Wooldridge's Office 0413 722 281

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©Commonwealth of Australia, 2000

Published on Commonwealth Department of Health and Aged Care web site 30 October 2000 Commonwealth Department of Health and Aged Care URL: http://www.health.gov.au/mediarel/yr2000/mw/mw20097.htm