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Overseas trained doctors playing a vital role in Victorian rural health services.

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Media Release Friday 6 October 2006

Overseas trained doctors playing a vital role in Victorian rural health services

The President of the Rural Doctors Association of Victoria (RDAV), Dr Mike Moynihan, today paid tribute to the vital role being played by overseas trained doctors in rural hospitals and medical practices across the State.

“Without them many hospitals would be forced to close down services” Dr Moynihan said. “Particularly as proceduralists they are enabling hospitals such as Hamilton, Horsham and Swan Hill to continue services like obstetrics. They are also an important provider of anaesthetic services, which enables the provision of surgery, obstetrics and emergency management in rural hospitals. They work with little support in many solo locations.

“It is vital that as a State we offer an environment for overseas trained medics that is hospitable, receptive, supportive and reasonable to work in. It is our job to ensure that those accepted are enabled to exercise their training and ability to the fullest extent. Rural experience has shown that, properly supported and assisted, they soon settle down—even in the most unpromising instances—and give excellent service.

“We must realise that many have endured great privation prior to their arrival in Australia. They are survivors of harsh regimes and have spent years transiting other countries like New Zealand and South Africa. Some are the victims of political opprobrium in their own countries. They have spent years or even a decade learning English, studying and passing examinations. They have worked at menial tasks to support their families whilst enabling their children, some our doctors of the future, to graduate through universities into

professional careers. On commencing active medical work they are invariably required to work in very demanding situations. Their achievement in both surviving heavy workloads in rural locations and passing the unusually high standards of Australian Fellowship examinations can only be applauded.

“Through failing to recognise the impact of reduced working hours and feminisation of the medical workforce, Australia is now suffering a shortage of doctors. It will take many years to correct this and some of the impact on rural areas will never be redressed. We either have to continue overseas recruitment or suffer the continued loss of services seen this year in a number of locations.

“Victoria is increasingly unable to meet all of its obligations to the 2003 Commonwealth Medicare Agreement to preserve 1998 level of service in rural areas, for example in locations like Seymour, Portland, and all those that have lost maternity services. It is only common sense to adopt a pragmatic and realistic approach to overseas recruitment. Victoria already has the strictest entry requirements of any State and many doctors have diverted this year to other States as a result. It is to be hoped that regulatory bodies will be able to continue to operate within their legislated parameters without undue media pressure. Any further tightening of requirements will occasion further commensurate loss of rural services and the State needs to measure up the plight of its rural residents against the resources required to introduce and support overseas trained doctors to optimise their performance until settled in.”

For interviews contact Dr Mike Moynihan, President of the Rural Doctors Association of Victoria, on tel: 0427 331 370.