Overseas Doctors May Face Tougher Tests

Overseas doctors may face tougher tests

The Age
November 17, 2007 – 11:54AM

Overseas-trained doctors seeking to work as medical practitioners in Australia will face more stringent security checks under a re-elected coalition government.

Problems have been highlighted this year through the sacking of Dr Mohammed Asif Ali from Gold Coast Hospital – for exaggerating his medical employment history in August.

This is in addition to the ongoing “Dr Death” scandal involving Indian surgeon Jayant Patel at Bundaberg Base Hospital, who has been linked to the death of 17 patients.

In September, Immigration Minister Kevin Andrews said Australians could not be confident about the current “less than thorough” employment screening procedures.

Under the current procedures the immigration department approves doctors' visas, including character and security checks.

But it is up to state medical boards and each doctor's recruitment agency – often a state health department – to ensure their work histories are bona fide.

Under the new guidelines, set out by Mr Andrews on Saturday, doctors would be screened by an Australian registered medical practitioner with at least 10 years' post-internship experience or a medical college nominated by the Australian Medical Council.

The nominated practitioner or college would then agree to maintain contact with the visa applicant for the duration of their visa.

In addition, the person or organisation sponsoring the visa applicant, must agree to provide them with an appropriate two-week orientation program.

Mr Andrews said the new arrangements would apply to new visa applicants as soon as possible after the election.

“It will deliver higher standards of scrutiny before overseas medical practitioners are able to work in Australia in the future and regular monitoring of their performance,” Mr Andrews said in a statement.

Mr Andrews wrote to state health departments and medical registration boards in September asking them to review their system for checking doctors' employment backgrounds.

“Together with today's announcement, these arrangements will ensure that Australians can have confidence in the overseas trained doctors working in Australia now and in the future,” he said.