Thursday, November 5, 2009

Thankyou Ms.Roxon

We note that you have made changes to the 10 year rule for some overseas-trained doctors, and thankyou. It is a start, Ms. Roxon.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Critical GP shortage in Launceston.

This blog may have been quiet lately, but the shortage of GPs continues to hurtle on towards the cracking point.

It looks like that point is about to be reached in Launceston. See the article in The Examiner here.

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Taking it back to Mr. Rudd.

Members of the Need More GPs group met with the Prime Minister Kevin Rudd’s representative on October 31, at his Griffith electorate office.
We pointed out that the ideas (in respect of the critical GP shortage) that we put to Mr Rudd at a meeting in May (and to Nicola Roxon in September) still have not been satisfactorily addressed despite a welter of correspondence from Canberra public servants.  Mr Samuel Walker, of the Prime Minister’s Griffith electorate office, said he could understand our concern, and undertook to refer the issue back to the relevant Departmental officers.
In summary, our suggestions to relieve the GP shortage in the short to medium-term are:

1.To assist the urban crisis: a short moratorium (say, 6-12 months) on the provider number restriction, with some other conditions: only Australian residents or citizens who are fully registered and have a demonstrable urban commitment. This could allow an uptake of IMGs into urban practices at risk of closing, without causing an exodus from the bush
2.A reduction of the time-limit on IMGs obtaining unrestricted provider numbers from 10 to three years. Three years seems a reasonable amount of time to demonstrate a commitment to the country. It is also short enough to make up skilling not too much of an issue for IMGs who have not found work in Australia for whatever reason. We also suggest that as a three-year requirement is less intimidating than a 10-year one this may increase the number of doctors prepared to consider going to the bush.
3. A ‘Welcome Back’ package; an up skilling and mentoring program to assist doctors return to work and temporary assistance to GPs who wish to work part-time while their children are under-school age, in the form of a subsidy of their medical indemnity cost, to be repaid (as is the student HECS bill) when their working hours increase substantially.
4. Increase rural Medicare rebates by 20-30%.  At present there is no difference income-wise between rural and urban doctors.
For a fuller discussion, please go to "The Solutions Discussion" link at the top of the sidebar. 

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Aussie Doctor, Aussie Trained, Overseas Rules Apply.

 “How can you call someone a foreign doctor when they are an Australian doctor with an Australian degree, and they were classed as a local student from day one?”

Good  Question, Dr .Belich.

Mike Belich was born in New Zealand, but has lived in Australia since the age of 14. He graduated from the Medical School of the University of NSW in 1999, and is currently working in Byron Bay where he is completing his RACGP training. When he passes his Fellowship exam however, as he is classed as "a former overseas student" (although he was considered a "local student" when he enrolled) he is subject to the same regulations as International Medical Graduates - in other words must work for ten years in a District of Workforces Shortage before he will be eligible for an unrestricted provider number.

There are apparently about a hundred doctors in the same situation as Dr. Belich. 

Dr Belich's story was in the The Australian on Wednesday October 29 (first edition), and a link will be made to this just as soon as it is available.

A spokesperson for Health Minister Nicola Roxon said that she (Ms Roxon) he is  "aware of the situation and is currently looking into what can be done."

Representatives of The Need More GPs group specifically mentioned Dr Belich's case to Nicola Roxon when they met with her in September (see post below) to discuss GP workforce shortage issues.

Saturday, September 13, 2008

Our Meeting with Nicola Roxon.

Representatives of our Need More GPs group were invited to a meeting with Nicola Roxon on Tuesday 9th September. We are still considering our formal response at this time, but in summary, we feel that:

Nicola Roxon knows the horse is sick

She knows the cart needs repairs

However she is focused on building the barn.

Do we need to say that we fear that the GP section of the barn will be empty, unless some urgent interim action is taken?

The German Press.

The article in Die Welt has been translated by a colleague. This is how the German Press understand the situation in Australia as regards the GP shortage and the employment of international medical graduates.

Flying Doctors in Australia face an Emergency.

On this fifth continent, the scarcity of country doctors necessitates the Royal Flying Doctors to take over. But the RDFS are now facing great shortages in manpower.

They land with their propeller driven aircraft among grazing kangaroos. They fly into Aboriginal camps to pull teeth, and they save stranded tourists who have accidents with their camper-van. They are the physicians of the Royal Flying Doctor Service (RDFS). They are the most prestigious relief organisation in Australia, and this has brought them global fame. Yet in this year in which they celebrate their 80th birthday, the organisation finds itself in an acute state of distress despite incoming donations and continued government grants.

The new generation of the medical profession are missing in taking up the challenge of servicing the inland, leaving the present staff stretched to the limits of their capacity. They must cover ever larger areas with less and less personnel. The crisis has become so acute that the flying doctors can only maintain this enterprise with the assistance of foreign help. “The demand for our services becomes ever greater” said Roger Petheram, the manager of the regional RFDS based in Dubbo, – a town in the interior of the Australian east coast State, NSW - with a population of 40,000. A place where it rains rarely, and where the wind-dried tufts of grass blow into the aircraft hangers.

From here, several times a week, rescue teams are deployed into the Outback. To meet further emergencies, a second airplane and an additional surgeon is needed to ensure a smooth service. But the response has been sluggish. “We have been looking for a qualified physician since the middle of July – so far the interest has been low” says Ingo Stormer, a German anaesthetist. Scarcely two years out from Cologne, he now holds a senior rank with the RDFS at the Dubbo base. His emergency colleagues are doctors from Holland and Zimbabwe.

The reality is that without foreign trained doctors, a large part of the Australian health system would have long broken down, with 43% of all medical practitioners in the vast rural areas of the continent having gained their qualifications abroad. These fill the gaps due to the fact that Australian trained doctors are unwilling to dedicate their skills to the Outback, but rather prefer to establish their careers in the larger coastal cities. Presently, the RDAA has announced an urgent need for approximately 1600 more doctors, with at least a dozen needed to maintain the work of the Flying Doctor Service.

Additionally, more qualified nurses are used to take up the slack. “Positions that should be taken up by those medically qualified,” states Gordon Gregory, the chairman of the National Rural Health Alliance. And the situation becomes graver with many elderly and established country doctors now seeking retirement, leaving their practices, and not being replaced by others within their profession.

“Unfortunately, younger Australian doctors have abandoned the bush – and have no desire to take on the hard work so much evident in the country-practices,” says Janet Clarkson, a female doctor practicing in Brisbane.

Even migrant doctors are unwilling to go into country practise as they must commit themselves up to ten years service in the Bush. And things will get worse due to past negative experiences where under-qualified overseas doctors have brought their profession into disrepute with medical fraud, atrocious surgery leading to mutilation and even death of patients, and other disreputable and unethical practises. To counter this, authorities are intensifying the already complex guidelines for immigrants that wish to work in welfare occupations.

From July 1st 2008, stricter language tests and stricter rules will be in place before foreign medical qualifications are officially recognised. Tracey Green, who is responsible for medical personnel within the Royal Flying Doctor Service in Queensland believes that such hurdles will make it more difficult for German doctors to immigrate. Rather, a greater recruitment for qualified physicians is underway concentrating on England, Canada, and New Zealand. “That is unfortunate,” Green says, “as we genuinely admire the skills of German-trained doctors.” Moreso, if Ingo Stormer is correct, because they may be more willing to accept a job in the Outback.

The flying doctor team has found one promising candidate in Germany. But, even if all the bureaucratic entry hurdles are overcome, it must be recognised that this Australian icon – a non-profit and very famous enterprise – faces serious challenges ahead. Even if the medical situation improves, the RDFS are now desperately seeking pilots to fly their planes.

Translation by Yuri Koszarycz

Friday, September 5, 2008

The International Press.

More on the GP workforce shortage:

Our campaign has come to the notice of the German press. It is in the newspaper Die Welt (readership of 690,000), in an article on the rural medical problem and the Royal Flying Doctor Service. The article is HERE.