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Nurse-led initiative to strengthen healthcare placement strategies

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The Albanese Government announces the initiation of the Working Better for Medicare Review to tackle the unequal distribution of healthcare professionals across the nation.

The comprehensive review will urgently examine strategies to enhance the equitable placement of doctors and health workers, particularly in outer suburbs, regional, rural and remote areas.

Led by nurse and remote health expert Professor Sabina Knight, alongside former senior health bureaucrat and academic Mick Reid, the Working Better for Medicare Review aims to strengthen current policies and programs. The focus will be on three key policy levers: the Modified Monash Model, District of Workforce Shortage, and Distribution Priority Area, in addition to evaluating Medicare’s role in workforce location.

The primary objective is to establish a more stable, motivated, and appropriately located workforce that ensures Australians can access healthcare irrespective of their residential location. The review will address challenges in attracting and retaining healthcare professionals in areas with a shortage of doctors.

Stakeholder engagement will form a crucial component of the review process, with the findings expected to be presented to the government in mid-2024. The initiative builds upon previous efforts, including Professor Mark Cormack’s work on “Unleashing the Potential of Our Health Workforce,” focusing on maximising the skills and experience of health professionals, regardless of their work location.

Minister Butler emphasises the significance of the review in the context of historical cuts to Medicare, stating that the largest investment in bulk billing in Medicare’s history is making healthcare more affordable. He underscores the need for adapting distribution levers to the evolving healthcare landscape, especially in light of the COVID-19 pandemic and global health workforce challenges.

Minister Butler expresses confidence in the expertise of Professor Sabina Knight and Mick Reid, the appointed independent reviewers, in guiding this crucial review. The government aims to utilise all available tools to encourage healthcare professionals to serve in areas of need, fostering better accessibility to medical care for all Australians.

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