RACGP backs call to cut the 'red tape' holding back foreign doctors

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The Royal Australian College of General Practitioners says it supports cutting the red tape that is holding back more international medical graduate GPs from working in Australia.

Its expression of support follows a call by New South Wales health minister Brad Hazzard today for the federal government and the college to work together to remove barriers that have been “inadvertently” placed in the way of foreign doctors getting accreditation to work in Australia.

“There has never been a more important time to cut red tape holding back international medical graduates from working in Australia,” said RACGP President Karen Price.

“We urgently need more GPs on the ground right now and the hold-up is not with the RACGP – we simply apply the standards that apply to international medical graduates. As our Rural Chair Dr Michael Clements said this morning, we reject any claim that standards should be eased or less expectation placed on the quality of doctors coming to work in Australia. However, we are supportive of doing more to support international medical graduates in meeting those standards

“The RACGP also once again urges the federal Health Department to streamline processes for international medical graduates, including steps such as speeding up the visa application process, so we can get more GPs working in the communities where they are sorely needed without delay.

“International medical graduates from around the world are a vital piece of the puzzle in solving GP workforce issues. Throughout the pandemic in 2020 and 2021, border closures restricted the number of doctors who could arrive in Australia, and this of course comes on top of a much longer-term problem the Health Minister Mark Butler has accurately described as ‘terrifying’ of not enough future doctors opting for a career in general practice.

“The RACGP has long campaigned for measures to make it easier for international medical graduates to start work in Australia. In late 2020, for example, we welcomed overseas-trained GPs having their visa applications expedited as part of Australia’s COVID-19 recovery efforts. That was an emergency measure and government needs to go much further on more a sustainable, long-term strategy.”

RACGP Rural Chair Dr Michael Clements said rural, regional, and remote areas are crying out for more GPs.

“Communities outside of major cities rely disproportionately on international medical graduates so enabling more of them to work in Australia without unreasonable delay must be a priority,” he said.

“Many communities, particularly in remote, rural, and regional areas, are crying out for more GPs. A few weeks ago, it was reported that a clinic in Brighton, a town north of Hobart, had closed its doors leaving thousands of people without access to a nearby GP. Meanwhile, in South Australia the state Government announced an offer up to $750,000 for an experienced GP to work in the Lameroo-Pinnaroo district.

“Ask many GPs and practice managers, particularly outside of major cities, and they will tell you how difficult it can be to bring in a GP from overseas and get them set up to actually start helping patients. It can take up to two years and this time-consuming process leaves many practices desperately short of GPs with nowhere else to turn.

“Let’s relieve the bureaucratic headache and provide more support for international medical graduates so that more communities can bring in GPs from overseas without delay. No patients should be left behind, everyone deserves access to high-quality general practice care.”