We are a na­tion of fly-in doc­tors

Sunday Mail - - NEWS - SUE DUN­LEVY

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.

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