Birrell Report Reflects AMA Recommendations on OTD Assessment
By Australian Medical Association
Sep 29, 2005, 21:10

AMA President, Dr Mukesh Haikerwal, said today the AMA welcomes the latest report by Professor Bob Birrell, Director of the Centre for Population and Urban Research, into overseas trained doctors (OTDs) as an honest and intelligent appraisal of existing OTD assessment processes in Australia.

Dr Haikerwal said the report – The Aftermath of Dr Death: Has Anything Changed? – co-authored by President of the Australian Doctors Trained Overseas Association, Dr Andrew Schwartz, confirms there are no common standards or common assessment mechanisms in place.

“The report highlights the degree to which health departments have avoided having OTDs assessed by specialist medical colleges by employing them as hospital medical officers rather than specialists,” Dr Haikerwal said.

“It shows that State health departments have tolerated the lack of a suitable assessment process because they can get OTDs to work at lower rates than qualified Australian trained practitioners.

“This highlights the unfair situation faced by OTDs who complain about wages or training. As the report says – ‘their very right to remain in Australia is dependent on not making waves with their employer’.

“There has been little or no progress in developing proper standards for OTD assessment. The Federal Government essentially sees it as a State responsibility, while the States are reluctant to tackle the issue due to a fear that the OTD workforce will dry up.

“The report puts a spotlight on the impact of Dr Patel, otherwise known in the media as Doctor Death. It points out that OTDs are unfairly targeted by a suspicious public and many OTDs are reluctant to work in regional areas due to lack of professional support and social support.

“The AMA agrees with Professor Birrell’s assessment that there is a need for consistent and rigorous assessment processes, supervision, access to bridging courses, and financial support for OTDs.

“We have been calling for improved processes for some time - including better assessment processes involving medical colleges, ongoing support and supervision and education.

“While the Birrell report provides welcome support for the AMA position, it also highlights the slowness of the response from the Federal and State governments,” Dr Haikerwal said.

Dr Haikerwal said the AMA’s Rural Reference Group had called for improved OTD assessment and support at its most recent meeting.

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