Australia operates “closed shop” to restrict doctors from overseas, say critics

BMJ 2009; 339 doi: (Published 16 November 2009) Cite this as: BMJ 2009;339:b4843
  1. Melissa Sweet
  1. 1Sydney

    Overseas trained doctors seeking to work in Australia often face unwarranted restrictions on practising, say leading Australian medical specialists and healthcare reform advocates.

    Ian Hickie, a psychiatrist at the University of Sydney, says that shortages in the medical workforce are being exacerbated by restrictions caused by an “evil axis” of immigration policy, health regulations, and the monopoly of specialist medical colleges over training and accreditation.

    Australia was allowing a “closed shop” to control its medical workforce in a way that would not be tolerated in any other industry, he said. Concerns about quality and safety were often used as a “smokescreen” to maintain the position of local graduates, he added.

    “We’re quite happy to have all these overseas trained doctors work in our system, so long as they don’t exercise the same economic and civil rights [as Australian graduates],” said Professor Hickie.

    The recently publicised case of a Canadian doctor who has been unable to gain full rights of practice ( showed that workforce reform should be a major focus of the current national push for healthcare reform, he said.

    Susan Douglas, who moved to Australia in 2006 to take up an appointment as senior lecturer in general practice at the Australian National University, …

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