New Requirements for Overseas Doctors

November 25, 2019 0 Comments

Under the Stronger Rural Health Strategy, the number of overseas trained doctors coming to work in Australia will be managed by directing them to areas of need.

New Requirements for Overseas Doctors

The Initiative

Concerns from Medical Professionals

In Support for the Initiative

 

The Initiative

Under the Stronger Rural Health Strategy, the growth of Australia’s medical workforce will be better managed by regulating the number of overseas trained doctors coming to work in Australia and directing them to areas of need around the country. 

The aim is to divert doctors from over-serviced metropolitan areas to areas of workforce need, especially in rural and remote areas.

Through the Skilled Migration Program requirements, the number of overseas trained doctors entering Australia to work in primary health care will be reduced by 10% annually over a 4-year period.

This will be a gradual process to ensure the right balance of qualified GPs are available, while also providing opportunities for Australian trained doctors.

There is an estimation that approx $415 million will be saved over this period from better managing the total number of doctors entering the workforce and providing opportunities in areas of need.

The savings will involve slowing the growth in the number of overseas trained doctors joining  the Australian workforce, and the associated reduction in Medicare and Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme (PBS) billings.

Other costs of services from the growth in the supply of doctors that have not been managed well will also be reduced. These costs may include diagnostic, pathology and specialist referral costs.

Medical team of doctors at work in hospital

The initiative will be supported by a new planning tool, which will create a more effective distribution of overseas trained doctors to areas of need. 

The number of visas to be granted through the skilled migration program over the four years will help to slow the growth in the number of overseas trained doctors entering Australia that want to work in metropolitan areas. Improved targeting of visas in regional Australia and reductions in the total intake from major metropolitan locations will also be considered. 

The Department will work with Rural Workforce Agencies to ensure that overseas trained doctors are directed to suitable areas of genuine workforce need. They will assist in better managing the supply and pave the way for a more highly trained rural health workforce.

 

Concerns from Medical Professionals

The focus on distributing foreign doctors to remote areas has raised concern among medical professionals, the ABC reported.

Australian Medical Association WA mentioned that relying on more overseas-trained doctors to work in the rural areas could raise some concern about the quality of the medical training, which is often difficult to find out in depth. 

Another potential concern is the ‘ethical problem’ of overseas doctors impacting the healthcare for people from the doctors’ country of origin by leaving and settling into a new life abroad. 

Chair of the Midwest GP Network also agreed with the concerns. Mentioning that even though international doctors have served plenty of Australian’s communities well, they should not be relied on to make up for the recruitment gap.

Some initiatives like rural clinical schools and structured regional placements in country general practices are already in place to attract Australian doctors. However, it is suggested that more could be done.

Encouraging kids from regional areas of Australia to go to medical school increases the chances of them working in their regional area after graduating. 

Additionally, living and working in regional Australia should be more attractive to local doctors as well. A town’s community should be able to support a young doctor’s family, making sure the doctor has connections with the community and that they have enough support in their practice to work efficiently. 

Doctor consultation with paediatric patient

 

In Support for the Initiative

Rural Health West is one of the rural workforce agencies that can issue Health Workforce Certificates to overseas-trained doctors. Chief Executive Officer Tim Shackleton said the new requirements would ensure better distribution of doctors across the country.

The State and Federal Governments have made significant investments in training more Australian students. By 2022, there should be more than 400 students graduating from medical school in Western Australia alone.

Federal Minister for Regional Services Senator McKenzie mentioned in the interview by the ABC that the initiative would allow the Government to better manage the distribution of the national medical workforce. The balance of qualified GPs across all of Australia’s communities and the opportunities for Australian-trained doctors will immensely benefit from the initiative. 

Questions?

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