Rural doctors, like their colleagues elsewhere, are thinking individuals whose main aim is to provide timely, appropriate care to the patients living in their local communities. More often than not, they are small-business operators running a practice which is becoming more complex, both in the clinical sphere and in the myriad requirements associated with accreditation, indemnity, practice incentive payments, vocational registration, the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme and Medicare, credentialling at the local hospital, the Privacy Act 1988 (Cwlth), and the Trade Practices Act 1974 (Cwlth). Non-compliance with any of these regulations and requirements can lead to severe penalties — in the case of breaches of the Trade Practices Act, exposure to $500 000 fines for individuals. The Productivity Commission's recent enquiry into red tape in general practice1 and the Wilkinson Review of the impact of Part IV of the Trade Practices Act on the recruitment and retention of medical practitioners in regional Australia are two demonstrable consequences of the general concern.
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