Australia Minister Flags Tough Visas for Overseas Doctors

by VR Sreeraman on Nov 18 2007 12:44 PM

It will become more difficult for overseas-trained doctors to get an Australian work visa if Immigration Minister Kevin Andrews, who has drawn much flak since the failed case against Indian doctor Muhammad Haneef, has his way.

Andrews wants overseas-trained doctor visa applicants to be cleared and screened by a doctor with at least 10 years' experience.

His reasons for flagging tougher regulations is to ensure that under-qualified or unskilled doctors cannot practice in Australia, and to prevent another case like that of Indian-born US citizen, Jayant Patel, who has been linked to 87 deaths at Bundaberg Base Hospital in Queensland.

Andrews told the media: "We - my department that is - undertook an audit, randomly selected, of 108 doctors, and that revealed significant concerns in relation to the efficacy of the vetting processes undertaken by some of the states. So, on the basis of that I'm moving to put more strict requirements in place."

Since the case of Jayant Patel, dubbed as 'Dr Death', questions have been raised whether the Australian medical system needs to undergo a major health check to ensure checks and balances are in place while recruiting overseas doctors.

Andrews said: "This is something which the Australian Medical Association has welcomed and it puts much stricter controls in place, especially in place of what has been lax procedures at the state level."

The tough visa regulations would be imposed if the federal coalition wins the Nov 24 elections. Opinion polls are tipping the opposition Australian Labour Party (ALP) for a landslide win.

Meanwhile, Haneef's lawyer Peter Russo has told a rally in Brisbane, demanding a change in government, that a Labour government led by Kevin Rudd would be just as conservative as the present John Howard government.

Russo, who is continuing the legal battle to have Haneef's 457 work visa reinstated, told newspersons: "It is probably obvious that I am not a great supporter of the Howard government. (But) my view, for what it is worth, is things won't change dramatically with Rudd."

The ALP has basically towed the government's line in the Haneef case, which has exposed the draconian nature of the Anti-Terrorism law, the Migration Act and the Crimes Act.

Haneef was held July 2 in Brisbane over the foiled British terror plots and detained for 27 days as part of a bungled terror investigation.