Australian Country Party condemns forced deregistration of overseas trained rural doctors

Regional and rural Victoria is facing a grave shortage of doctors, and the Australian Government and Medical Board of Australia (MBA) have just deepened the crisis by insisting international doctors are deregistered if they do not pass advanced examinations, despite recently acknowledging in the federal budget that these same doctors have received little or no support compared to their Australian-trained colleagues.

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Dr Julian Fidge, Australian Country Party candidate for Ovens Valley, has worked with, mentored and supervised overseas doctors for over 10 years. He currently supervises or mentors 5 overseas trained doctors.

Dr Fidge said:

“Prior to commencing practice in Australia, overseas trained doctors have their qualifications assessed as being equal to a minimum amount of Australian experience, sit the Australian Medical Council exam, and arrange to be closely supervised by a senior doctor before they can sit the position-specific (PESCI) exam and start work.”

“The Australian Government and MBA are happy to dump and isolate overseas trained doctors in government-gazetted Areas of Need and Districts of Workforce Shortage, where they are immediately overwhelmed with work and have little or no time or opportunity to access advanced training for examinations.”

What did they expect would happen to these doctors? Not only do they have to settle themselves and their family into a new country and culture, they also have to get their heads around the complexities of Medicare, PBS. AHPRA, Australian laws and regulations, while being overworked in rural communities, and at the same time try to prepare for advanced exams without any examination training. It is a wonder any overseas trained doctors in rural communities have ever passed advanced examinations!”

“The treatment of overseas doctors is a disgrace, and of course most of them will not pass their advanced examinations in the time allocated. The same people who are calling for their de-registration run a fabulous, well supported training scheme for Australian graduates that is solely aimed at getting Australian doctors through their advanced exams, while they provide little or no support for overseas trained doctors.”

“The general public and media should be made aware that some members of the Australian Medical Board and senior doctors who are insisting that overseas trained doctors should pass advanced examinations may have never passed an advanced exam themselves, and may actually be less well qualified than the doctors for whom they are calling be de-registered.”

Dr Fidge asked

“Are these people protecting vested interests of their colleagues? Recall the Medical Board’s ongoing harassment of Dr Charlie Teo, one of Australia’s greatest neurosurgeons and Dr Paddy Dewan, who is a gifted paediatric surgeon. There is absolutely no basis for the de-registration of a doctor who has not passed an advanced exam. They have not magically become unsafe after years of practice. They just need the same support their Australian-trained colleagues receive.”

Australian Country Party Candidate for Western Victoria, Mr Costa Di Biase, added

“There is a great shortage of doctors in Western Victoria. Communities like Rupanyup for example, have a nursing home but no GP. Donald is going to loose their GP soon and many places desperately need more. Overseas trained doctors play a vital role for communities in rural Victoria, where we find it difficult attracting Australian born doctors. Many of these doctors are very qualified, and we need to provide them with more support. In addition to their medical profession, many have become valuable and active members of the local community, and will be dearly missed.”

Mr Di Biase also noted that the crackdown on overseas doctors was just another example of how the city-centric regulators make decisions with little regard to how they impact rural communities.