The second Indian Muslim doctor to get into trouble, Mohammed Asif Ali, had lied about his employment history, Queensland government says.
Bangalore's Mohammed Haneef might have been acquitted honorably in Australia, but the reputation of his colleague in Gold Coast hospital, Mohammed Asif Ali, is in question now.
AdvertisementHe has been suspended with pay for lying about his career back home in India.
He was first interrogated over his relationship with Mohamed Haneef, but after his suspension, the Queensland state government stated the action had nothing to do with terrorism allegations.
The Courier-Mail newspaper reported the 26-year-old Dr Asif Ali's resume included up to 12 months of hospital work in India that he never performed.
The newspaper said at the time of his supposed employment, he was attending to family problems and had taken time off.
Exhaustive background checks were carried out on Asif Ali, the state government says.
As it happened Ali was suspended from his work in the Queensland hospital, with pay though, around the same time Mohammed Haneef was making a triumphant exit from Australia, amid media glare, after the terrorism charge against him was dropped.
Health Minister Stephen Robertson said checks were carried out on Ali before he was employed.
He insisted in an interview to ABC radio that Ali's suspension was not terrorism-related.
"This is a case whereby some information that is passed on may not have been entirely correct, and we have a responsibility to investigate that," he said.
A medical board spokeswoman said Dr Ali's registration was approved in September 2006 after he had met all registration requirements.
She said the board had issued him with a show cause notice to explain the "discrepancies" in his resume.
He now has 21 days to respond.
The Australian Federal Police (AFP) earlier this month after Haneef was arrested over the failed UK terrorist plot voluntarily questioned Dr Ali.
AFP Commissioner Mick Keelty had earlier said there was nothing to suggest Dr Ali had done anything wrong, but is now insisting that Ali remains a person of "interest" for them.
Interestingly Ali too hails from Karnataka in India, as does Haneef. He had graduated from the Mysore University in that Indian state.
Meantime Ali's lawyer, Neil Lawler, conceded parts of his resume provided to Queensland health were inaccurate.
"There are a few discrepancies which Dr Ali acknowledges," Mr. Lawler said.
"His resume in particular ... he'd extended some dates for employment ... and that was inaccurate and he acknowledges that." He also admitted rubber stamps carrying the name and details of different specialists at a medical college in Bangalore, India, were found in his client's Gold Coast unit.
However, he said the stamps had never been used.
Again both Dr Ali and Dr Haneef were recruited from Liverpool in England and sponsored on 457 work visas by Queensland Health.
The incident has once again stirred the debate about 457 work visas and the vetting of skilled migrant applications, especially in the northern state of Queensland that relies heavily on foreign doctors to meet the skilled shortages.
Opposition health spokesman John Paul Langbroek said Dr Ali's suspension showed serious question marks remained over Queensland Health's vetting processes.
Australia, which is undergoing skills shortages in various fields like health and engineering, desperately needs overseas workers to fill positions in the sectors.
Doctors have been able to apply for the Temporary Business Long Stay visa (subclass 457) since April 2005.
About 3,000 foreign medical graduates a year are allowed into Australia, many of them under the 457 Visa scheme.
The Department of Immigration website points doctors to the temporary business (long stay) visa (subclass 457), describing it as the 'preferred temporary visa pathway for doctors entering Australia. It allows applicants to take advantage of streamlined visa processing arrangements, including the ability to lodge applications over the Internet using a special online application form'.
There are around 5,000 overseas trained doctors working under supervision and under the 457 temporary visa scheme. In the past 12 months, 1,200 doctors have been given visas under the scheme and Queensland Health is understood to be its biggest user.
Two years ago, the case of Jayant Patel dubbed as Dr. Death in Queensland had raised concerns over the recruitment of overseas doctors. Dr Patel, had falsified his application for registration in Queensland, hiding the fact he had been found guilty of gross negligence in the US, has been linked to the deaths of least 17 patients at Bundaberg Base Hospital.
While in US he was charged with performing needless operations and harming patients and he had his license cancelled.
The he moved on to Australia where he was appointed director of surgery at Bundaberg Base Hospital in 2003 in Queensland, where else, under the "area of need" program.
His unprofessional behavior continued, with his surgical work being described as "antiquated" and "sloppy", and some nurses even claimed that they hid their patients from him when they knew that he was in the hospital. He was referred to as" Dr. E. Coli."
Patel is also alleged to have shown a poor regard for hygiene with claims that he responded to a nurse's concern over his unwashed hands with "doctors don't have germs".
When a crusading journalist unmasked his ways, he returned to his luxury home in Oregon, USA and he is still being pursued by Australian authorities.
In such a background, Asif Ali's case should raise further queries about the whole issue of enrolling Indian doctors in Australia's health services.
In another twist to the Haneef episode, a dossier prepared by the Intelligence officials in Karnataka reportedly mentions that he could have had links with Al Qaeda and that he had been in constant touch with his cousins Kafeel and Sabeel of the failed UK bombing plots. Haneef knows well Dr Bilal Abdullah, another key accused in the Glasgow incident and he might have come in touch with terror groups after he completed his education in Karnataka, the police are said to assert in that dossier.
Besides, the 960 pounds transferred to Kafeel Ahmed's account in October 2005 by Haneef has also come under the scanner. Earlier Haneef had told the Australian police the money was meant for Kafeel's family bombers, but the transaction took place just two months before the terrible attack on a premier science institute in Bangalore, the police say and insist the whole thing should be looked into afresh. The dossier also makes a reference about a bank locker key that was Found in Haneef's possession, which the police suspect may have belonged to Kafeel. This point too is being investigated.
All these should come as a lifeline to the conservative Howard government in Australia, charged as it is with racism and motivated handling of the Haneef episode, with an eye on the national elections in the near future.
It is set to bite the dust in the elections and the Haneef case was a ploy to show off of its security concerns, it has been charged by many critics. But things should look better for them now, it is felt.
But Haneef's family members assert that the allegations are baseless and he himself is said to be said to be tormented by the turn of events. He has since moved away from Bangalore for now, it is said.
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