Overseas trained doc­tors ‘dis­crim­i­nated’

Auckland City Harbour News - - NEWS - By KARINA ABADIA

New Zealand doc­tors who trained overseas say they can’t find em­ploy­ment be­cause they are be­ing dis­crim­i­nated against.

It’s hard for them to get the in­house train­ing needed for regis­tra­tion be­cause pref­er­ence is given to grad­u­ates from New Zealand and Aus­tralian med­i­cal schools – re­gard­less of whether they are cit­i­zens of these coun­tries.

The Auck­land Re­gional Mi­grant Ser­vices Char­i­ta­ble Trust laid a com­plaint with the Hu­man Rights Com­mis­sion on their be­half on March 20.

There are at least 41 doc­tors still wait­ing for a job place­ment af­ter hav­ing passed the exam be­tween 2011 and 2013.

Many have held se­nior po­si­tions in their home coun­tries and speak var­i­ous lan­guages.

Dr Morella Las­cu­rain, 45, came to New Zealand in 2000 and sat the equiv­a­lence exam last year.

She worked as a doc­tor in Venezuela for four years and is the manag­ing di­rec­tor of Mt Eden pri­vate health cen­tre Mother-Well Holis­tic Health.

She would like to prac­tise gen­eral medicine along­side other al­ter­na­tive health­care meth­ods but can’t find a place­ment.

Treat­ing her and other doc­tors in her po­si­tion dif­fer­ently is un­fair, Las­cu­rain says.

‘‘What’s hap­pen­ing in a nut­shell is we are not al­lowed ac­cess to that one year that would al­low us to reg­is­ter. That’s dis­crim­i­na­tion.

‘‘The real­ity is we’re not for­eign any more. I’m as much a New Zea- lan­der as any­one else.’’

Those who grad­u­ate out­side of Aus­tralia, North Amer­ica and West­ern Europe are re­quired by the NZ Med­i­cal Coun­cil to pass the New Zealand clin­i­cal exam (NZREX). The next step is to gain a hos­pi­tal place­ment and work un­der su­per­vi­sion for a min­i­mum of a year.

This is also a re­quire­ment for lo­cal grad­u­ates.

Dr Joel Veda­mony, 28, moved here from In­dia af­ter grad­u­at­ing in Nepal in 2011. He passed the prac- tical ex­ams in June and has been work­ing in a med­i­cal lab­o­ra­tory con­tact cen­tre be­cause he can’t find a grad­u­ate po­si­tion. When he ap­plied to the job match­ing sys­tem he was told he was in­el­i­gi­ble be­cause he had stud­ied overseas.

Like Las­cu­rain, he had to con­tact all 20 dis­trict health boards him­self to see if there were any va­can­cies af­ter all the New Zealand and Aus­tralian doc­tors had been placed.

‘‘It’s quite frus­trat­ing. I have a cer­tain skill set which is ben­e­fi­cial but I’m not able to use it in New Zealand.’’ Still, he counts him­self lucky. ‘‘I know a lot of other doc­tors who are in the same sit­u­a­tion who are sit­ting at home be­cause they can’t find a job. There is a need for cer­tain types of doc­tors and there are peo­ple who can fill those po­si­tions if we are able to get over the hur­dle of the first year.’’

The Med­i­cal Coun­cil has re­duced the num­ber of NZREX ex­ams it of­fers from five to three this year. This de­ci­sion was made mainly be­cause of the lim­ited avail­abil­ity of in­tern po­si­tions, chair­man An­drew Con­nolly says.

But that wouldn’t help those al­ready wait­ing for a place­ment, Las­cu­rain says.

‘‘If an ex­tra 40 or so jobs were cre­ated for us to be able to reg­is­ter they would be solv­ing the prob­lem be­cause af­ter the first year many of those doc­tors would go into ar­eas of medicine that the coun­try needs,’’ she says.

Health Work­force New Zealand ex­ec­u­tive chair­man Des Gor­man was un­avail­able for com­ment.

Photo: KARINA ABADIA

Fed up: Dr Morella Las­cu­rain says a hos­pi­tal job match­ing sys­tem which gives pri­or­ity to New Zealand-trained doc­tors is un­fair.

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