Foreign doctors face assessment
September 29, 2005 - 5:44AM
Overseas trained doctors should be assessed by a new national body set up to oversee accreditation of health workers, a new report recommends.
The draft study by the Productivity Commission calls for the federal government to set up a new national accreditation agency with uniform standards for doctors, dentists, nurses and allied health workers.
It would also assess overseas trained health workers wanting to practise in Australia.
"The new national accreditation agency should develop a national approach to the assessment of overseas trained health professionals," the paper says.
"This should cover assessment processes, recognition of overseas training courses and the criteria for practise in different work settings."
The Queensland government set up a royal commission into Indian-trained surgeon Dr ****** Patel - dubbed Dr Death by colleagues - after he was linked to the deaths of more than 80 patients at Bundaberg Hospital.
Dr Patel fled to the United States.
AdvertisementUnder the current system, the Australian Medical Council runs exams for overseas-trained doctors who want to practise in Australia but have not been able to get their qualifications recognised by various state and territory medical bodies.
Most state medical boards require a specialist medical college to approve an overseas-trained doctor's appointment.
However, at the time Dr Patel began practising in Queensland, the state had no such rule.
The commission also recommends the various existing accreditation bodies, such as the Australian Medical Council, Australian Dental Council and Optometry Council would be left with administrative roles and overseeing professional development and disciplinary measures.
"In the commission's judgment, national uniform standards for the registration of health professionals are intrinsically desirable," the paper says.
The commission also recommends setting up a national advisory council on education and training to integrate courses for healthcare workers.
The council could also act as a bridge between the new accreditation agency and a new workforce improvement agency the commission has also recommended be established.
The workforce improvement agency would be charged with looking at ways to introduce new innovations into the healthcare workforce, particularly ones which cross current professional boundaries.
It also calls for an extension of the Medical Benefits Scheme to subsidise services provided by a wider range of health professionals instead of just doctors.
"Changes are required to ensure that safe, quality care is delivered by well trained health workers with the right skills and in the most cost-effective way," commissioner Mike Woods said.
"These changes (suggested in the paper) would benefit all areas of the healthcare system and help those living in outer metropolitan, rural and remote areas, and others with special needs, where workforce pressures are particularly evident."
The commission's paper says major changes are needed to improve the efficiency of Australia's healthcare workforce and tackle existing demand and supply issues.
It says Australia's health workforce system is extraordinarily complex with state and commonwealth governments involved along with more than 20 accreditation bodies covering education and training courses, 90 registration boards and a host of professional bodies administering codes of conduct.
Submissions on the paper can be made before November 11. The commission is due to hand its final report to the government by the end of December.