District of Workforce Shortage & Area of Need
CommonwealthIf you want to treat private patients as a General Practitioner (GP) or a specialist, (rather than work in a salaried public hospital position) you will need a Medicare number to attract the Medicare rebate. This is generally issued as a restricted provider number, but only if you work in a District of Workforce Shortage (DWS). This condition applies in all states and territories of Australia.
A DWS is a location where the provision of medical services currently falls below the national average, which is determined by the Department of Health and Ageing. DWS is determined using both Australian Bureau of Statistics population data and Medicare Australia billing data.
General Practitioners can check if a location is in a DWS by using the Dr Connect locator map and selecting the DWS layer. Simply enter the practice location to check the current DWS status. Specialists will need to check if a location or locations are in a DWS for their specialty by emailing the Department of Health and Ageing at 19AB@health.gov.au.After five to ten years working in a DWS you will be eligible for an unrestricted Medicare provider number which will allow you to treat private patients wherever you wish.
StateAn Area of Need is any position/location in which there is a lack of specific medical practitioners or where there are medical positions that remain unfilled following multiple recruitment attempts over a period of time. Area of Need applies to both public and private sector positions.
Most international medical graduates (IMGs) who do not qualify for general or specialist registration, but who have the skills and qualifications considered sufficient to work under supervision will need to work in an Area of Need. All doctors applying for Limited Registration for Area of Need in Victoria will be required to provide an Area of Need letter of endorsement from the Department of Health (Victoria). This is because under section 67(5) of the Health Practitioner Regulation National Law Act 2009, it is the responsible Minister (or delegate) in a State or Territory who decides whether and an Area of Need exists.
The Area of Need letter of endorsement must be submitted with your application for Limited Registration for Area of Need to the The Medical Board of Australia who is responsible for deciding whether an individual applicant is eligible, qualified and suitable for Limited Registration for Area of Need, to practise in a particular position.
Area of Need Process in Victoria
- Check that the location you want to work in is currently considered to be in a District of Workforce Shortage. This can be done by:
- For GPs – check the Locator map on the Dr Connect website using the DWS layer
- For Specialists – email the Department of Health & Ageing to enquire if specific location is deemed to be DWS for a specific specialty via 19AB@health.gov.au
- Once you have confirmed the position is in a DWS submit your evidence (Dr Connect map printout or email response from DoHA) with an application for Area of Need endorsement to IHPV@health.vic.gov.au
- You will receive email confirmation advising that your application has been received and you will be provided with a timeframe in which you can expect to receive your letter of endorsement
- Once your Area of Need has been approved your endorsement letter will be emailed to your employer
NOTE: The Medical Board of Australia requires that doctors on Limited Registration for Area of Need provide a new Area of Need endorsement letter each year (or every time you apply for renewal of your current limited registration).
- Victorian Department of Health Area of Need Fact Sheet
- Doctor Connect – DWS Section 19AB, Health Insurance Act, 1973
- Doctor Connect – DWS Section 19AA, Health Insurance Act, 1973
- Australian Government ComLaw - Health Insurance (Section 19AB Exemptions) Guidelines 2012