DWS explained

23 February 2018 | Australian GPs, Clinic Owners and Practice Managers, UK/Ireland GPs | 3 minutes read

DWS explained


As we have talked to GPs around the country in early February, the big question we kept hearing was: “when will the DWS change”  and  “what do you think is going to happen – will there be more or less DWS areas?”

So now that we know the answer, (see our summary table below) how can you be sure that the system works in your favour or make the best of what looks like a bad situation?


  1. Understand the ten-year moratorium and what it means

The ten-year moratorium is an outdated system ostensibly designed to attract doctors to areas of highest workforce need, but in fact, it creates a complex system of regulation that takes up a significant amount of time and energy with little effect.

Essentially, the legislation says that no overseas trained doctors (or overseas students trained in Australia) can bill Medicare. End of story back in 1996. Then when legislators realised they couldn’t meet medical workforce needs under a ten-year moratorium (Section 19), they introduced Section 19AB exemptions in 1997 to create loopholes so that workforce needs could be met.

As a result, medical recruiters in Australia have become experts in regulation and in finding ways to circumvent some rather clumsy legislation and meet the needs of Australian communities.

  1. Understand that DWS does not equal 19AB

Many people think that DWS and 19AB are the same, but that isn’t exactly true. The Districts of Workforce Shortage (DWS) are just the most common type of 19AB exemptions. Therefore, DWS exemptions are a subset of the 19AB exemptions. The main advantages of being able to use DWS is:

  • The outcome is predictable – it is relatively easy to predict who will be able to gain an exemption
  • Once they are issued, they remain valid for the entire remainder of the moratorium (for that location)
  • The DoctorConnect website provides clear information on which areas are eligible for the exemption – providing a degree of transparency.
  1. Think about other 19AB exemptions

If you need a 19AB exemption and you can’t find a suitable job in a DWS area, you may want to consider some of the other 19AB exemptions and check whether you are eligible.  In doing so, make sure you get accurate advice because the system is so complex that many GPs are provided with inaccurate advice. The key 19AB exemptions include the following:

  • Spousal exemptions
  • After hours exemptions – this is not suitable for candidates requiring a 19AA exemption
  • Six-month locum exemptions

If you think you might be eligible for a spousal exemption, make sure you get good advice as eligibility for this exemption is widely misunderstood. If you have any questions or want to find out more, you can contact Megan our Business Consultant and Registration Manager on megan@alecto.com.au or check out our 19AB Spousal Exemption page for further details.

If you are interested in new approaches to accessing a six-month exemption, look out for next month’s newsletter and blog “Choose your lifestyle and see Australia”.

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