07 May New law to impact rural doctor recruitment
Banning 457 visas will have a significant impact on the recruitment of health professionals in rural and remote Australia.
Despite the increase in the number of health professionals graduating from Australian universities, recruiting professionals to work in rural and remote Australia is still difficult.
“I would love to be in the situation where we rely on locally trained health professionals to fill all vacancies in rural and remote communities but that is still many years away,” said David Butt, Chief Executive Officer of the National Rural Health Alliance.
“Without overseas trained health professionals, many rural and remote communities would simply be without access to health care.”
President of the Rural Doctors Association of South Australia, Gerry Considine said that international doctors make up 40% of the total rural doctor workforce across the country and this would be a similar proportion in SA, especially in the more remote areas.
Mr Considine said that given the large numbers of international doctors that work in rural areas, it was hard to see that much thought had gone into ensuring a stable medical workforce into the future.
“As rural doctors, we always hope that federal and state governments consider the effect that any policy change has on rural communities.”
The people who live in rural and remote Australia have higher rates of diseases than their city cousins, and have poorer health outcomes, with death rates up to 60% higher for coronary heart disease and 35% higher for lung cancer.
“The changes to the 457 Visa’s may make recruitment more difficult for agencies across the country as potential international doctors may not apply to practice in Australia given the new hurdles,” said Mr Considine.
“Over time, of course we would like to see more Australian trained and rural origin doctors end up in our country areas.
Unfortunately, Mr Considine said that this will be more than three to four years away given the training time involved.
“Until then, we are relying on our stalwart international doctors who have filled these positions over the years.”
Rural doctor groups have been assured that current workers will not be affected.
“In future, if policy around skilled migration changes we hope that any such changes are implemented slowly and not before close consultation with rural doctor and workforce groups,” Mr Considine said.