Credential vetting units questioned
RAPID assessment units established in the specialist medical colleges to help streamline the recruitment of overseas doctors have been a success and should be continued, according to a Department of Health and Ageing review.
But with the department only funding a two-year pilot program, and some colleges concerned they will be unable to maintain their strong performance without continued government support, the improvements to the assessment process may be short-lived.
For almost two decades, the qualifications of overseas-trained specialists (OTSs) have been assessed by the Australian Medical Council and the relevant colleges. But since the introduction of the area-of-need strategy in 2002, fast-tracking the recruitment of OTSs into crucial vacancies, there have been concerns about the cost, efficiency, transparent and equity of the assessment program.
In response to these concerns, in particular the potential for the colleges to use market power to restrict access to the medical workforce, the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission conducted a review of the Royal Australasian College of Surgeons that raised questions over some college processes.
Further reviews by government health committees led the Australian Health Ministers Workforce Officials Committee to recommend the establishment of rapid assessment units (RAUs).
Under the pilot program, which began in 2006, the colleges of surgeons, physicians, anaesthetists, psychiatrists, pathologists, radiologists and obstetricians and gynaecologists were engaged to streamline and standardise assessment processes for OTSs, improve transparency and accountability, and reduce red tape.
All colleges, except the Royal Australasian College of Physicians, also attempted to improve specialist recognition assessment processes.
Weekend Health used freedom of information laws to obtain the final review of the program, which consultants Health Outcomes International provided to the department in September.
The consultants’ report found the RAUs had implemented an impressive range of initiatives’’ under the program.
There is evidence that the RAU pilot projects have provided an increased focus on OTS assessment issues which has resulted in reviews of policies and processes being undertaken,’’ the report found.
This has led to processes being streamlined; provided more visible pathways and more meaningful interaction with stakeholders. We believe it is important that the change management processes that have been commenced by the colleges in imple menting the RAU projects should continue.’’
The performance of the colleges ranged from the college of radiologists completing