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Thursday, 30 May 2013
Page: 4632

Mr NEVILLE (HinklerThe Nationals Deputy Whip) (16:49): I would like to preface my remarks tonight by saying this is not a criticism of the health minister; it is done by way of an appeal to both sides of politics that, regardless of the outcome of the election on 14 September, we do something sensible to straighten out the rules with respect to overseas trained doctors. I want to quote a few examples.

I have a doctor who has come to see me. He did his training at Witwatersrand in South Africa, which at the time had one of the leading medical schools in the world—even compared, at the time, to Harvard. He did his postgraduate work in London, then went to New Zealand where he went into private practice and into public medicine. He completed his Australian and New Zealand fellowship in general practice and went on to do another fellowship in health administration. He came to Australia where he took over a health region. He came to our hospital to straighten up Bundaberg after the Patel scandal and a registration scandal.

He runs a hospital at Hervey Bay that sees 64,000 outpatients a year; 42,000 of whom are GP-type patients. He applied for his registration as a GP and was knocked back. This is a guy who sees 42,000 people—either himself or as supervisor to other doctors who see them. To add insult to injury, a month or two after he was knocked back, they said they would give him a Medicare number if he would agree to do just weekend and evening work. That is an outrageous misuse of the power of the bureaucracy, and it demeans the standard of our college of general practice. If a person is good enough to look after 42,000 patients, if he is good enough to hold two fellowships, if he is good enough to straighten out one of Australia's worst hospital scandals—and they turn around and say to him, 'You can do night work but you are not good enough to work during the day.' It is about time that sort of nonsense stopped.

Two other doctors came to see me the other day. One has just finished her GP fellowship and the other one has about 12 months to go. The first applied to get her Medicare number and they said, 'You've been in Australia for about four years,' and she said, 'That is correct.' She had been in a supervised private practice for 3½ years or more of those four years. They said, 'No, you can't have one because you have not done an English test in the last three years.' She has been dealing with Australian patients, English-speaking patients, for 3½ years of those four years. Her acuity in English would be vastly superior to what it was 3½ years ago. At the time, 3½ years ago, she got seven out of 10, and her husband got 8½ out of 10. So their English is quite clear. Yet she is going to be subjected to the demeaning practice of having to go through her English exams again. We are screaming out for doctors in country areas, and we are going on with this puerile nonsense.

The other doctor did his degree in Melbourne and went to England where he became quite a famous GP and wrote for medical journals—including, I understand, TheLancet—then went to New Zealand and managed a health region. He had done his primary degree in Melbourne and when he came back to Australia he applied for registration as a GP. With all that background—he was actually writing the textbooks, if you like, for GPs; and all doctors read The Lancet and so on—they basically said to him, 'You are not good enough to get a Medicare number and go into general practice.' They actually wanted him to sit his basic exam again. Finally, the Director of Orthopaedics at the Bundaberg Hospital, who has his fellowship in orthopaedics and was trained in the UK and Zimbabwe, has been asked to go through a whole series of hoops, as has his wife and child.

If we want foreign-trained doctors, overseas doctors, to come to this country, and if we are sure of our own fellowships, we should stop this infantile nonsense and start treating people in the medical profession with respect.