Working as a GP in Australia - The Bureaucracy

Published: 11th March 2010
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Mary is a UK trained GP, and wishes to migrate to Australia to get away from that chilling London drizzle. Apparently, it's easy to find GP jobs in Australia because there is such a shortage here. She speaks to the college of GPs, and they give her some very clear instructions, as follows:

"The first thing you need to do is apply to the AMC for assessment towards the SPP. They will deal the EICS, and make sure that you meet language requirements, else you might need to sit IELTS. You shouldn't have to do that AMC I or II because you are a MRCP, and will be recognised for fellowship to the RACGP. Once that is done, you can apply to the MBA for the SPP, who will also assess the DWS status to make sure you are registered in an appropriate location. If you can't get SPP, you will need to consider AoN - but any location without DWS can't have AoN, so remember that. The next step is to talk to DIAC get your 457 Long Stay (SBS) visa - but you can't do that without having your SPP finished first. It's smooth sailing after that to the HIC for the section 3J application - unless PR is involved (no, not that type of PR), in which case it will be a 19AB application. Now, that's clear isn't it?"

This bewildering tale is an all-too-common symptom of the broken medical recruitment system in Australia. There are so many fantastic people out there working in the government, medical boards, immigration, the colleges, and the AMC to try to help overseas trained GPs work in Australia. Some would say that with such a multilayered, complex system it is amazing we have anyone to see patients on a Monday morning. In fact, in many places of Australia, we are failing to recruit doctors because of an outdated, thorny labyrinth of forms, bureaucracy, and stone walls.

The recruitment agencies of Australia play a de-facto role as the coordinating body, acting as the translators, and conduits for GPs to start work in Australia. We do what the private sector does best - be effective.

The more I think about it, I can't help but think that a free market will result in more effective recruitment. What would happen if we abolished elements of the Health Insurance Act, District of Workforce Shortage, and Area of Need? Some would say absolute anarchy, others would say that DWS and AoN have created a misguided sense of security, and a false economy of recruitment. The argument against a free recruitment market is that doctors will flood to city and sub-city regional areas. This could be the case, but given that there are a finite amount of doctors jobs in those areas, there will inevitably be pressure to move out further and further from cities.

The protectionist approach afforded by these policies simply means that those who know, and understand the system best can work it to their advantage - and the rest are left by the wayside. For doctors like Mary, having to deal with the language of the system is enough of a reason to stay home - what is wrong with a bit of drizzle, anyway?

This article was written by Shaun Hughston, Director of medical recruitment agency, Beat Medical. Beat Medical helps foreign doctors find general practitioners jobs in Australia, as well as finding national and international physicians locum doctor work around Australia.

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