Note: Where available, the PDF/Word icon below is provided to view the complete and fully formatted document
 Download Current HansardDownload Current Hansard    View Or Save XMLView/Save XML

Previous Fragment    Next Fragment
Monday, 19 March 2012
Page: 3202

Mr GEORGANAS (Hindmarsh) (10:14): On behalf of the Standing Committee on Health and Ageing, I present the committee's report entitled Lost in the labyrinth: report on the inquiry into registration processes and support for overseas trained doctors, together with the minutes of proceedings.

Australia has one of the best healthcare systems in the world. Together with a high standard of living, our country presents an attractive option for foreign trained doctors and their families. In coming to Australia many international medical graduates, IMGs, begin by working in a regional, rural or remote area. In most of the regions and rural areas the committee travelled to many IMGs made up the medical workforce. Undoubtedly, IMGs contribute significantly to meeting the healthcare needs of these communities. In doing so, they often become integral to the communities they serve.

The committee's inquiry sought to examine Australia's system of medical practitioner accreditation and registration. The system was overhauled in 2010 following the formation of the Australian Health Practitioners Regulation Agency. AHPRA's role is to oversee 10 national health boards. It is one of these boards, the Medical Board of Australia, that is responsible for the new national scheme of medical accreditation and registration. The national scheme was intended to streamline former state and territory processes. Managing the transition from state and territory based processes to a national process has been a significant undertaking.

During the inquiry, IMGs and others told the committee about their experiences with the national scheme. There is no doubt that the transition to the national scheme has resulted in confusion and frustration. A perceived lack of clarity and transparency has left some IMGs feeling significantly disadvantaged or, worse still, deliberately discriminated against.

In formulating the report's 45 recommendations, the committee understands the need to ensure that Australia's high clinical standards continue to be applied without compromise. We started the inquiry with the most important objective, namely, that Australia has very high standards and we wanted those standards to remain high without compromising them at all with the recommendations being tabled here today.

To address the concerns raised, many of the report's recommendations call for improvements to the national scheme's transparency, efficiency and communication. The committee's inquiry canvassed a range of issues that cause concern for IMGs. One of these, the MBA's English Language Standard, was the subject of much comment. Under the standard, IMGs applying for registration must meet a prescribed standard of English language proficiency. A number of IMGs explained that they now had difficulty in meeting the English Language Standard, which has become more stringent under the national scheme. The committee, while not lowering current standards, has recommended that the English Language Standard be reviewed to ensure it is appropriate. The committee also recommended that IMGs who do not pass are given detailed written feedback so that they know the reasons they did not pass a particular part of an exam and so that they know which areas they need to concentrate on.

Another issue discussed at length is the so-called 10-year moratorium. This policy requires IMGs to work for up to 10 years in a designated district of workforce shortage to qualify for a Medicare provider number. As Australia's reliance on IMGs is predicted to decrease in coming years, different strategies will be needed to encourage Australian trained doctors to work in areas of workforce shortage. In view of this the committee concluded that a review of the 10-year moratorium would be appropriate and timely.

The committee also considered the importance of professional and personal supports for IMGs and their families. Access to these types of support is crucial to the recruitment and retention of IMGs. The committee's recommendations seek to enhance and strengthen existing support systems. These include pre- and post-arrival orientation, access to professional development opportunities, and access to peer support networks for IMGs.

In conclusion, I would like to thank all of those who contributed to the inquiry by providing written submissions or by appearing before the committee at one of the many public hearings. In particular, I would like to thank the many IMGs who shared their experiences and provided many insights. I also thank my committee colleagues for their participation and contribution to the inquiry. I also thank the secretariat, Alison Clegg, Muzammil Ali, Belynda Zolotto and the other members of the secretariat, and my staff member Hannah Frank, who worked on this inquiry.

In accordance with standing order 39(f) the report was made a parliamentary paper.