We are a nation of fly-in doctors
THERE are now more overseas-trained GPs practising in Australia than those who trained locally, new Federal Government figures reveal.
And with local medical graduates shunning general practice to pursue higher-paid specialties, doctors’ groups have warned the need for foreign doctors highlights a growing crisis that will only get worse. There were 12,950 fulltime GPs who trained overseas in the past financial year, compared with 12,199 full-time doctors trained in Australia.
Even though the number of domestic medical school graduates has more than doubled from 1320 in 2005 to 3055 in 2015, we are still importing 2000 foreign-trained doctors a year and almost half of them are GPs.
GPs from the UK, Ireland, India, China, South Africa and the Philippines are the backbone of the rural medical workforce and now provide 79,071 services to patients, compared with 72,486 services provided by Australia-trained doctors.
They are also earning more from Medicare – $3.959 billion a year comparedwith $3.709 billion a year. Our reliance on foreign doctors underlines how general practice has become so unattractive for local doctors that training bodies were unable to fill 400 of the 1500 GP training places for 2019.
Royal Australian College of General Practitioners president Dr Harry Nespolon warned that with no solution in sight, patients should get used to being treated by doctors from abroad.
“Many GPs are in their 50s and will be retiring in the next 10-15 years and there is a feminisation of the workforce, which means more part-time doctors,” Dr Nespolon said.
“There are more doctors available but the hours they work is smaller and this means the capacity of GPs is, relatively speaking, getting worse.
“Foreign doctors are doing a fantastic job but you have to question whether it is appropriate for a First-World country like Australia to be taking doctors from Third-World countries and banging them in the middle of Australia.
“The college believes strongly we should be training our own doctors, not importing them from the Third World.”
Australian Medical Association president Dr Tony Bartone said: “Ethically speaking, these foreign countries need these doctors more than we do.”
With 10-12 years of training required to qualify as a doctor, it is far more lucrative to become a specialist.