GP Distribution Priority Area assessment launched

7 September 2021 

Federal Liberal Member for Robertson says a new exceptional circumstances review process for the Department of Health’s Distribution Priority Area (DPA) classification system aims to help regions like the Central Coast respond to workforce and population changes which may be impacting access to local GP services. 

Ms Wicks has been seeking improvements to the current DPA status of the Central Coast for years to ensure it recognises health service changes locally. 

“I have made representations to the Minister for Regional Health, Dr David Gillespie, and I’m pleased he has considered and been able to respond to our concerns with this review of Distribution Priority Areas,” Ms Wicks said. 

A region with DPA status can access a pool of internationally trained doctors and bonded doctors to practice locally. 

The exceptional circumstances review process for the Department of Health’s Distribution Priority Area (DPA) classification system provides an opportunity for recent changes in the Central Coast’s circumstances to be assessed,” Ms Wick said. 

“GP clinics in non-DPA areas can now apply for an exceptional circumstances review. 

“If approved, an area will be eligible to access additional programs for that year to support recruitment from a broader pool of doctors 

“The DPA exceptional circumstances review is just another tool the government is using to help clinics recruit doctors to care for communities like the Central Coast. 

“The Primary Health Network has been working to attract and retain GPs to the Central Coast with a number of incentives, support networks and programs.” 

Building on this announcement, 170 medical students have commenced study at the new Central Coast Clinical School in Gosford. 

“This has put the Central Coast and Gosford on the map as a region of medical excellence and I have no doubt that is going to help drive positive outcomes for our region.” 

Minister for Regional Health, Dr David Gillespie said the DPA classification allows the government to identify regions where locals face an increased challenge to access a GP. 

The DPA indicator supports other initiatives that encourage doctors who are subject to location restrictions, such as overseas qualifications, to work in regional and rural areas. 

“The Government is acutely aware of the significant shortage of GPs in many areas of regional, rural and remote Australia. As a regional doctor myself for most of my career, I understand the impact this has on health outcomes and community wellbeing,” Dr Gillespie said. 

“The current DPA system assesses regions annually, using the most up-to-date available data to support approvals for priority access to internationally-trained doctors and bonded doctors. 

“I have heard loud and clear the concerns that this approach is not capturing current or emerging local pressures, sudden and unexpected changes and unmet demand. So, I have worked with my Department to implement the exceptional circumstances assessment for non-DPA regions with GP service access concerns. 

Dr Gillespie said an important step in the assessment process is applicants working with and having the support of the Rural Workforce Agency (RWA) in their state or territory. 

“RWAs play an important local role in helping medical practices recruit and retain GPs, nurses and other allied health professionals,” he said. 

Once an applicant has worked with their RWA, they can submit it to the Distribution Working Group for a review of an area’s non-DPA status. 

“We are aiming to ensure the process is a speedy one, to quickly help address any GP service shortfall arising from those additional factors.” 

The Australian Government is also preparing a formal review of the DPA indicator. Further details of the review will be announced soon. 

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