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Calls to increase the number of foreign doctors in Australia


International medical graduates should have their applications to work in areas of need in Australia fast-tracked, according to the nation’s main body representing general practitioners.

The Royal Australian College of General Practitioners made several recommendations in a presentation it delivered to the Senate Joint Standing Committee on Migration.

The group’s president, Dr. Nicole Higgins, said in the paper that a shortage of workers in the health sector is leading to poorer health outcomes and lower life expectancy, particularly in rural and remote areas.

“Australia’s healthcare system is in crisis and one of the key problems is that we have a shortage of workers across the board, including GPs, pharmacists and nurses,” he said.

The submission to the committee also called for the reinstatement of a grant canceled last year that helped pay for training graduates abroad to practice as specialist doctors in Australia.

“At a time when our healthcare system is in crisis and people across the country are struggling to get a GP, why would we add yet another barrier in the way of foreign doctors working in Australia? It doesn’t make sense,” Dr. Higgins said.

Since 2020, overseas graduates have accounted for around 45 per cent of all doctors in Australia and more than 50 per cent of GPs have obtained their medical degree abroad.

The university’s rural chair, Associate Professor Michael Clements, said foreign-born graduates from Europe, Asia and the UK have always been interested in working and living in Australia, and the government should do everything as much as possible to make it easier for them.

“While governments need to do much more to encourage native-born people to want to become GPs by properly funding and pricing general healthcare, international graduates can help address short-term areas of need,” he said.

Another suggestion outlined in the presentation was for Rural Workforce Agencies to lead the coordination of streamlining applications to allow staff to go to areas of greatest need.

Rural Workforce Agency Network President Peter Barns said that’s a good idea, as international medical graduates make up 53 percent of today’s rural medical workforce.

“They and their families enrich the communities in which they work, and the Rural Workforce Agencies support efforts to simplify and expedite their travel to practice in Australia,” he said.