‘Area of need’ typically relates to any location in which there is a lack of particular medical practitioners, or where there is a medical position that remains unfilled following multiple recruitment attempts over a period of time. Area of need applies to both public and private sector medical positions.
In Victoria, it is the responsibility of the Department of Health & Human Services to assess all area of need applications and to determine whether a genuine need exists.
- Statement of need. All applications must include a statement of need outlining why the employer needs to employ an international medical graduate (IMG). Statements may include information on the number of recruitment attempts, geographical pressures and special cultural needs relevant to the demographic.
- Evidence of district of workforce (DWS) status is required if access to the Medicare benefits arrangement is required. As an area of need endorsement is not linked to the provision of a Medicare provider number, there is no guarantee that an IMG will be granted access to a Medicare provider number or the Medicare billing arrangements on the basis of an area of need endorsement. For international doctors, access to a Medicare provider number is linked to the DWS status of the location.
Therefore, all area of need applications in respect to positions that require a Medicare provider number must include the following evidence.
- General practitioners – provide a printout or scan of the DoctorConnect map positively identifying the location as a DWS.
- Specialists – provide a copy of the email from the Commonwealth Department of Health (19AB@health.gov.au) confirming the location as a DWS for the specialty.
Some exemptions to working in a DWS do exist. Information regarding 19AB exemptions can be found in the Health insurance (section 19AB exemptions) guidelines 2012. If a location is not currently a DWS and the candidate intends on applying to the Commonwealth for another type of 19AB exemption, then the employer should indicate the type of 19AB exemption on the application form.
Applications for an area of need endorsement must be made directly to the Department of Health & Human Services by completing the area of need application form. All applications for new endorsements must:
- be authorised by the employer or the employer’s authorised agent
- provide the appropriate evidence that demonstrates DWS status (or a valid 19AB exemption)
- include a statement of need.
Approval period – if approved, area of need endorsements are valid for 12 months.
Timeframe for assessment – where all information has been submitted, applications are processed within approximately 15 days. Once approval is received an electronic version will be sent to the applicant via email and the original by post.
Medical Board of Australia requirements
The Medical Board of Australia, under s. 67 of the Health Practitioner Regulation National Law (Victoria) Act 2009 (the ‘national law’), requires IMGs who do not qualify for general or specialist registration to obtain an area of need endorsement. IMGs must do this when applying for limited registration for an area of need (or for a renewal of limited registration for an area of need).
Section 67(5) of the national law provides that it is the responsible minister (or delegate) in a participating jurisdiction that decides whether an area of need exists. However, it is for the Medical Board of Australia to decide whether an individual applicant is eligible, qualified and suitable to practise in a particular position.