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Red tape rules out rural recruits -

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ELEANOR HALL: Medical recruiters say a 12 month delay in introducing a new accreditation program
for overseas doctors has damaged Australia's reputation as a place to work and left hundreds of
rural communities without a doctor.

The new streamlined recruitment program for general practitioners was supposed to have been
introduced in July last year.

But it still hasn't been approved by medical regulators, as Bronwyn Herbert has our report.

BRONWYN HERBERT: The Rural Doctors Association says right now there's a shortfall of 1800 doctors
across regional Australia.

But medical recruiters say even when qualified doctors from overseas want to work here, they are
being held up by a bureaucratic delay.

CHRIS MITCHELL: The frustration levels are significant to the point where we have heard a number of
practitioners have said: "I'm just not coming. I'm a senior general practitioner and you're asking
me to go through too many hoops.

And one ponders why those bureaucratic barriers are being put in place at a time when we are crying
out for more doctors in the bush.

BRONWYN HERBERT: Chris Mitchell is the chief executive of Health Workforce Queensland.

He says state and federal health ministers agreed on a new specialist pathway program specifically
for GPs that was supposed to streamline the entry of overseas doctors.

This was due to be introduced in July last year.

CHRIS MITCHELL: The new arrangements were announced under the COAG agreements and then the Royal
College of General Practitioners has had time to prepare a pathway, develop the program and then
the Australian Medical Council has, as I understand, it has to accredit that pathway.

And I do understand the pathway has been put up, it has not yet been approved. But there is a
blockage it needs to be sorted out it and this has gone on for far too long now.

BRONWYN HERBERT: Chris Mitchell says the numbers vary between states, but the process has stopped
at least a dozen doctors from working in rural Queensland.

CHRIS MITCHELL: We would have been able to attract another 12 to 15 general practitioners during
this time.

That's 12 communities that either don't have a doctor or the current doctors are overworked because
they are still waiting for their vacancy to be filled.

And you know we need every assistance we can to support these rural communities.

BRONWYN HERBERT: Andrew Schwartz is the president of the Australian Doctors Trained Overseas
Association. He believes the delay is due to Australian medical unions wanting to protect their

ANDREW SCHWARTZ: They are susceptible to the pressures put on by the medical profession.

It is the strongest union in Australia and they are extremely active and efficient at protecting
their turf and they are particularly interested in preventing large numbers of doctors coming into
Australia and entering the private market.

BRONWYN HERBERT: A spokeswoman from the Australian Medical Council says it's been waiting on
paperwork from the Royal College of GPs.

Dr Morton Rawlin is the vice president of the Royal Australian College of General Practitioners.

He says the proposal has been ready for nine months, but the delay has been getting approval from
each state medical board.

MORTON RAWLIN: We have had difficulties getting formal agreements through the various
jurisdictions, the various state boards that are required to in fact sign off and register these

BRONWYN HERBERT: Dr Rawlin says he understands the final documentation has now been signed off by
the Australian Medical Council and expects the new accreditation system to be operating by the
beginning of October.

ELEANOR HALL: Bronwyn Herbert with our report.