NA­TION ‘ Ill equipped’ doc­tors face im­port ban bid

Townsville Bulletin - - NATION -

DOC­TORS are urg­ing the Fed­eral Gov­ern­ment to stem the flow of over­seas- trained doc­tors, ar­gu­ing many are be­ing sent to ru­ral com­mu­ni­ties with­out the skills needed to care for pa­tients.

The Royal Aus­tralian Col­lege of Gen­eral Prac­ti­tion­ers ( RACGP) has said many of the doc­tors working in ru­ral and re­gional Aus­tralia do not have the ap­pro­pri­ate skills, qual­i­fi­ca­tions or sup­port.

It has re­leased a new po­si­tion state­ment to clearly de­fine the role of a ru­ral WAR ex­perts have maded a stun­ning dis­cov­ery along the Kokoda Track – a se­cret jun­gle road built by the Ja­panese.

Aus­tralian ar­chae­ol­o­gists found “Jap Road”, as the lo­cals call it, while un­earthing the mys­ter­ies of the “lost bat­tle­field” of Etoa. It is in­vis­i­ble from the air due to the im­pen­e­tra­ble tree canopy, as is an­other path­way dubbed the “Jap Track”.

The bat­tle­ground, where up to 70 undis­cov­ered bod­ies still lie, is a trea­sure trove for of­fi­cials in­ves­ti­gat­ing the Kokoda Cam­paign, which be­gan 75 years ago this week­end and was part of Aus­tralia’s first gen­uine fight for sur­vival – the bru­tal World War II con­flict in Pa­pua New Guinea. And it links to a larger ef­fort to map key sites along the trail be­fore they are lost to ero­sion, jun­gle creep and dam­age from trekkers.

The muddy, nar­row moun­tain­ous Kokoda Track, fought over in hor­ri­ble con­di­tions be­tween July and Novem­ber 1942, was pass­able gen­er­al­ist to en­sure doc­tors, pol­i­cy­mak­ers, uni­ver­si­ties and train­ing col­leges are on the same page when it comes to un­der­stand­ing the skills and qual­i­fi­ca­tions needed.

Col­lege pres­i­dent Bas­tian Sei­del knows bet­ter than most how the sys­tem works in prac­tice, hav­ing come to Aus­tralia as an over­seas- trained doc­tor from Ger­many to work in Tas­ma­nia’s Huon Val­ley in 2007.

Visa re­quire­ments meant he could not work in a met­ro­pol­i­tan area but no one checked he had the ap­pro­pri­ate skills ls to only to men on foot. But the “Jap Road” which runs par­al­lel to the fa­mous track is some me­tres wide, with banked sides, and in­ves­ti­ga­tors – who have cross­checked with old bat­tal­ion mem­oirs and Aus­tralian War Memo­rial archives – be­lieve it was in­tended for use by horses bring­ing sup­plies.

The next step is to es­tab­lish how far north and south the road ex­tends. So far the team have mapped just 4km in the vicin­ity of the lost bat­tle­field.

Se­nior ar­chae­ol­o­gist Matthew Kelly be­lieves there are many more sto­ries wait­ing to be un­earthed along Kokoda – from fallen sol­diers’ re­mains to crashed planes, and even the re­mains of a mas­sive de­fen­sive wall built by the Ja­panese and men­tioned by Dig­gers but never lo­cated.

Mean­while PNG’s Na­tional Mu­seum has ap­pointed Aus­tralian his­to­rian Dr Andy Con­nelly as its new mil­i­tary her­itage ad­viser as it seeks to dis­cover and tell those sto­ries. work as a ru­ral GP. “That’s got to change,” Dr Sei­del said.

“We’ve im­ported doc­tors from over­seas and just lit­er­ally left them alone with min­i­mal sup­port in ru­ral ar­eas and we know that hasn’t re­ally worked. We can’t just make the same mis­takes over and over again and hope for bet­ter health out­comes.”

Of­fi­cial fig­ures sug­gest Aus­tralia is headed for a doc­tor over­sup­ply of 7000 by 2030, yet ru­ral com­mu­ni­ties suf­fer from a doc­tor drought.

Dr Sei­del said Aus­tralia should stop spend­ing money at­tract­ing over­seas- trained doc­tors and fo­cus on train­ing lo­cal grad­u­ates to care for ru­ral pa­tients, who are typ­i­cally older and have more chronic con­di­tions such as heart dis­ease.

Ru­ral gen­er­al­ists need more ad­vanced skills than reg­u­lar GPs, with train­ing in ar­eas such as men­tal health, anaes­thet­ics and ob­stet­rics, but there is no na­tional scheme to recog­nise their ad­di­tional skills and ex­tended working hours.

The RACGP push comes as the Fed­eral Gov­ern­ment pre- pares to ap­point Aus­tralia’s first na­tional ru­ral health com­mis­sioner. The com­mis­sioner is charged with defin­ing ex­actly what a ru­ral gen­er­al­ist is and de­vel­op­ing in­cen­tives and re­mu­ner­a­tion to recog­nise their ex­tra skills and de­mands.

As­sis­tant Health Min­is­ter David Gillespie says the in­flux of over­seas- trained doc­tors is un­sus­tain­able and has sought ad­vice on whether to curb the flow and how to re­dis­tribute med­i­cal schools and train­ing places to ad­dress the ru­ral doc­tor short­age.

SECRETSE TRACK: Aus­tralia's Dr Andy Con­nelly, ne newly ap­pointed mil­i­tary her­itage ad­viser to the Pa­puan Na­tional Mu­seum and Art Gallery, at Eora Creek on the Kokoda Track with Sam Sega, a landowner in the area of the lost bat­tle­field.

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