Media Releases


July 21, 2022

The Albanese Government has acted to make it easier for people in the Shortland, Newcastle, Hunter, and Paterson electorates to see a doctor in their community.

The Government is delivering on its election commitment to better support communities across the country where there is a GP shortfall, such as across the Hunter region, meaning local practices will now be able access doctors from the Bonded Medical Program as well as overseas trained doctors.

Updating the Distribution Priority Areas (DPA) will see more than 700 areas with either full or partial DPA classification across Australia.

This is a result of the Albanese Government’s election commitment to provide automatic DPA classification to regional centres classified as Modified Monash (MM) 2, as well as maintaining exceptional circumstances DPA classifications.

Because international medical graduates and overseas trained doctors are only able to access Medicare if they work in a DPA area, a DPA classification means practices in DPA areas have access to more doctors who can work for the local community.  

All 707 areas in need across the country, including those in the Shortland, Newcastle, Hunter, and Paterson electorates will have priority access to this bigger pool of doctors.

The update will mean that the Kurri Kurri – Cessnock, Lake Macquarie, Newcastle, Maitland, Morisset – Cooranbong, Toukley – Budgewoi, Cessnock, Cessnock Region, and Nelson Bay GP catchment areas will now all have DPA status.

Minister for Health and Aged Care, Mark Butler, said: “Delivering on this election promise means thousands of Australians who live outside our capital cities will be more easily able to see a GP when they need to. This was a simple change to help these areas that the previous Government refused to make.”

Assistant Minister for Rural and Regional Health, Emma McBride, said: “As a pharmacist of 20 years and a local MP, I know the importance of quality health care close to home. 

“I look forward to continuing my work with GPs, training colleges, medical schools, and the states and territories to find ongoing solutions to the health challenges in their communities.” 

The Albanese Government will continue to support and encourage GPs to work in communities in need and provide regional and rural Australians with access to the health care they need.

The DPA changes take effect from today.

Quotes attributable to The Hon. Pat Conroy, Member for Shortland 

“This was one of the biggest commitments Labor took to the election and I am pleased we’ve been able to deliver it so quickly. 

“Updating the Distribution Priority Area classification for our region will make it much easier for local GP practices to recruit and retain doctors from the Bonded Medical Program and overseas trained doctors, leading to greater supply. 

“This change will not only take stress off local GPs, it will also reduce patient wait times, making it much easier for them to see their doctor.” 

Quotes attributable to Sharon Claydon, Member for Newcastle

 “This is an important first step towards making it easier for Novocastrians to see a doctor when they need to. 

“It is Labor’s long-standing commitment to strengthening Medicare that enables this change to better support regional communities like ours.” 

Quotes attributable to Dan Repacholi, Member for Hunter

 “I have seen and heard the horror stories of people waiting days and even weeks to be able to get into see their GP.  

“Coupled with the cuts made by the previous Government to the opening hours of the GP Access After Hours Service in Toronto, it has made it almost impossible for some to see a doctor while they are sick, so our Emergency Departments are overcrowded with people seeking medical help. 

“This change will mean residents in Cessnock, Lake Macquarie, Morisset, Cooranbong, Toronto, and right across the Hunter electorate, now have access to a broader pool of available GPs, which means improved access to quality care and reduced waiting times.”

Quotes attributable to Meryl Swanson, Member for Paterson 

“I’m proud to be part of a Government that is listening and delivering for our region. 

“People across my electorate need to be able to access a GP when they are unwell.  

“This is the first step in a number of measures that will make better healthcare available to people in the Hunter region.”