There has been a sharp decline in the number of doctors, especially Indian, applying for jobs in Australia since the much publicised Muhammad Haneef saga. The number of overseas-trained doctors applying to work in Australia has plummeted by up to 80 percent since mid-July, according to a new report.
A registrar at the Gold Coast hospital, Indian doctor Haneef was charged for suspected involvement in the botched British bomb attacks. The charges were later dropped, but Immigration Minister Kevin Andrews immediately cancelled his 457 work visa. Haneef voluntarily decided to return home to his family in Bangalore on July 27.
"The way the Haneef case was handled, we expected a backlash. We made representations to the government that it will have repercussions. Unfortunately, it has happened. It is very disappointing for the medical profession," past president of the Overseas and Australian Medical Graduates Association (OAMGA) and United India Association (UIA), Dr Siddlingeswara Orekondy told IANS.
"When we go on holiday or conference, even in Sydney metropolitan area, it is very difficult to get a replacement. I can forsee an impending crises if overseas doctors stop coming. The impact will be acute in cities and worse in country towns", added Orekondy, who migrated to Australia 31 years ago from Mysore.
According to a report in the Medical Observer published here, applications have fallen from around 200 a week to as low as 20 It reports that Medical Recruitment agencies are citing bad international publicity surrounding Haneef's case as one of the major contributors in dissuading doctors from seeking work in Australia.
Chairman of the Association of Medical Recruitment Agents Ron Krause told ABC, "Dr Haneef was considered to be really mistreated. We probably lost three or four doctors that were all ready to go - they had their visas, they were coming.... These are Indian doctors, [they] have just said, 'look, there's no way you can go to a country like that if that's the way they treat an Indian doctor'."
About 30 percent of Australia's doctors are trained overseas. The alarming drop in overseas doctors will further aggravate the acute shortage of doctors in remote and rural areas. Tighter visa restrictions are also compounding the problem.
The Health Minister of the state of Queensland, where Haneef was employed and is one of the largest recruiters of overseas doctors, has also blamed the Federal Government's handling of the Haneef case for this crunch.
Health Minister Stephen Robertson told ABC's World Today programme, "....I mean, there is no other issue to explain why we would see such a dramatic downturn than the headlines that were splashed around the world into places like the UK when our own Immigration Minister made quite irresponsible and offensive comments."
He said: "Since August we've seen a 20 percent downturn in expressions of interest coming from overseas."
The Australian Association of Medical Recruitment Agencies spokesman, Nick Hays, who also works for the recruitment agency, Latitudes told the ABC programme that even though this time of the year is usually the peak period of interest, number of applications has plummeted in recent months.
He told ABC: "On top of the 80 percent decline, what we have also experienced is approximately a 40 percent dropout rate, and that is that people who have accepted positions in Australia have now notified us that they're not going to be continuing with the position. This is mainly due to the fact that they believe that they're going to be offered a training position in the United Kingdom."
Another agency, Recruit-A-Doc's Director, Dr Brian Symon, said, "It is a simple reality that if we wish to recruit a doctor from the Indian subcontinent that, for our company, we've found that particularly difficult."
Australian Doctors Trained Overseas Association's Andrew Schwartz said applications from India have virtually disappeared since Haneef's work visa was revoked.