The AMA has urged the Federal Government to toughen visa entry requirements for overseas-trained doctors if States and Territories continue to drag their heels on the implementation of national assessment standards.
AMA President, Dr Mukesh Haikerwal, said today that nationally consistent visa entry requirements would prevent those who do not measure up from slipping through assessment gaps and into the medical workforce.
In a submission to the Joint Standing Committee on Migration this week, the AMA warned that the current assessment process for OTDs who apply for 457 visas could allow inadequately qualified doctors to practise in Australia.
"Australia should continue to welcome well qualified and highly skilled overseas-trained doctors to our medical workforce," Dr Haikerwal said.
"But without a rigorous and consistent assessment process, it's possible that an under-qualified doctor will slip through and start treating Australian patients.
"What the Bundaberg 'Dr Death' situation taught us is not to sidestep proper recognition processes.
"This is important for all doctors currently working in Australia and those planning to come here to work - both for the doctors' self-confidence and for the public's confidence in them.
"If the States and Territories continue to do nothing, the Department of Immigration must ensure that overseas-trained doctors meet appropriate standards of practice."
In 2006, the Council of Australian Governments (COAG) gave a commitment to implement nationally consistent OTD assessment and support standards.
"Some jurisdictions have been slow to sign up to the stronger assessment protocols," Dr Haikerwal said.
"If these delays persist, the Commonwealth should consider imposing stricter conditions on 457 and 422 visa applications."
Changes recommended in the AMA's submission include:
· Formal assessment of qualifications and skills by the relevant specialist College.
· Evidence of appropriate supervision/training, as determined by the College.
· Requirement for sponsors to provide formal orientation to the Australian health system.
· Appointment of a doctor with recognised Australian qualifications as a mentor.
The AMA submission to the Joint Standing Committee on Migration is attached.