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Monday, 19 October 2015
Page: 11748

Murwillumbah: Medical Practitioners

(Question No. 826)


Mrs Elliot asked the Minister for Health, in writing, on 24 June 2015:

(1) In respect of the changes made to the rural and remote area health classifications under the Modified Monash Model (MMM), why is the New South Wales town of Murwillumbah now classified as MMM 2, thereby attracting no incentive payments for medical practitioners, when under the previous Australian Standard Geographical Classification (ASGC) system it was classified as ASGC-RA 2 (Inner Regional), thereby attracting incentives

(2) Will she guarantee that this change will not lead to a shortage of medical practitioners in this region

(3) Given the caseload and workload for General Practitioners in Murwillumbah is vastly different from that of many other rural and regional areas, what incentives are available to General Practitioners, to attract them to the area

(4) Will she consider exempting or reclassifying Murwillumbah under the new classification system to provide incentives to General Practitioners


Ms Ley: The answer to the honourable member's question is as follows:

(1) The Government recently introduced a new geogr aphic classification system for some health workforce programmes, the Modified Monash Model (MMM). It is a shift from the now outdated Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) classification, the Australian Standard Geographical Classification - Remoteness Areas (ASGC-RA), which was based on 2006 population census data.

The MMM overlays the ABS' most up to date classification, the Australian Statistical Geography Standard - Remoteness Area (ASGS-RA), which uses 2011 population census data. Through the MMM, road distance buffer zones are also applied around towns and cities to recognise the broader functional service areas available in a given area. As an ASGS-RA2 area, Murwillumbah has been categorised by the ABS as "Inner Regional Australia".

Under the MMM, all areas in Inner and Outer Regional Australia that are in, or within 20km road distance of, a city with 50,000 people are categorised MMM2. This is the case with Murwillumbah, which is less than 20km from the Gold Coast/Tweed Heads. While MMM2 is outside the "Major Cities" classification of MMM1, its proximity to a large city recognises that the area has significantly greater access to services than isolated towns of a similar size.

(2) The Government uses the District of Workforce Shortage (DWS) system as a mechanism to attract medical practitioners to areas experiencing below average levels of access to medical services.

Murwillumbah is not currently classified as a DWS for general practice, indicating that Murwillumbah currently has an above average level of access to general practice services.

Should Murwillumbah's level of access to general practice services fall to below average in the future, this will be reflected in annual updates to DWS determinations, and a classification of DWS would act as an incentive to attract doctors who are subject to section 19AB of the Health Insurance Act 1973, such as overseas-trained doctors.

Murwillumbah is currently classified as a DWS for the medical specialties of anaesthetics, cardiology, diagnostic radiology, general surgery and psychiatry.

(3) Should Murwillumbah's level of access to general practice services fall to below average in the future, this will be reflected in annual updates to DWS determinations, and a classification of DWS would act as an incentive to attract general practitioners who are subject to section 19AB of the Health Insurance Act 1973, such as overseas-trained doctors.

Under the MMM, the more rural classification of a number of more isolated nearby towns, such as the MMM3 classification of North Arm, Eungella and Byangum (which might currently be serviced by Murwillumbah doctors), means that medical practitioners are encouraged to take up practice in such areas with the support of the General Practice Rural Incentives Programme.

(4) Geographic classification systems are in place to provide a nationally cohesive measure of the true gaps that identify under-serviced areas of Australia that are most in need, particularly for those living in smaller and more remote communities.

Murwillumbah will retain its MMM2 classification.