How is DWS and AON Calculated?

Every wondered how DWS works?

An interview with the Department of Health And Ageing, gave these answers in 2011


Please explain to the Committee how a District of Workforce Shortage (DWS) operates?

a) How is a DWS calculated?

  1. How is the data obtained?
  2. How is it disseminated?
  3. How often is it calculated?

b) How can it be that in some areas, a medical practice may not be classified as falling into a DWS, while nearby practices hold this classification?

c) How useful is the measure given that in the system of medical registration, a position-based Area of Need (AoN) classification exists under which IMGs are placed in identified positions?

  1. What is the benefit of a DWS in this case?
  2.   Does it act to complement an AoN?


a) Districts of Workforce Shortage (DWS) are areas where the general population has less access to GPs when compared to the national average. The Department uses the latest Medicare billing statistics, which account for all active Medicare billing, and Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) population to determine which areas are a DWS. This information is used to create a doctor to population ratio which is used as the basis for calculating DWS. If an area has a lower doctor to population ratio (i.e. less full time equivalent doctors) than the national average, the area is a DWS.

i. The Medicare billing data is obtained from the Department of Human Services which collects all active billing related to a medical specialty, including billing on a part time basis.

ii. The Department provides the current DWS status of every location across Australia for the specialty of general practice on the locator map on the DoctorConnect website The Department provides information relating to DWS areas for the other medical specialties upon request through the DWS in-box ([email protected]).

iii. DWS is calculated on an annual basis for all medical specialties other than general practice.  DWS for the specialty of general practice is currently calculated on a quarterly basis.

b)  The building block for the DWS calculation is the Australian Bureau of Statistics, Statistical Local Area (SLA) boundaries.  Postcodes are developed and maintained by Australia Post to assist in delivering mail, and are not intended to be an analytical or decision making tool.  SLA boundaries do not align, in some instances, with postcode or suburb boundaries.  Therefore, medical practices that are located within the same postcode or suburb may have a different DWS status.   c)  The DWS and Area of Need (AoN) systems have been established for different purposes. DWS is a workforce distribution mechanism that is based on the Medicare billing statistics and applies to overseas trained doctors (OTDs) and foreign graduates of accredited medical schools (FGAMS) who are seeking to access the Medicare benefits arrangements for their professional medical services.   The AoN system has been implemented to fill vacant medical positions, in both the public and private health systems, with conditionally registered medical practitioners, both Australian and overseas trained.   While there are no formal arrangements, the AoN units within each state and territory generally require that a vacant private practice position is located within a DWS area for the relevant specialty prior to granting an applicant employer approval to employ an AoN doctor.