Foreign doctors to be denied Australian work visas

Canberra: A radical proposal submitted on Tuesday by Australia's Department of Health would ban overseas-trained medical practitioners from applying for visas to work in the country. The Health Department said locally-trained doctors struggle to find work with too much competition. According to the government, this move would end a locally-trained doctor shortage, Xinhua news agency reported. Under the contentious proposal, 41 health-related roles would be taken off the Skilled Occupants visa list, including surgeons, anesthetists and resident medical officers. A Health Department submission obtained by News Corp said the proposed move would make it easier for Australian-trained medical professionals to find work. "Australia's health system has a complex division of funding, policy and operational responsibilities," the submission, published by News Corp on Tuesday, said. "It is also currently highly reliant on international health professionals, in an environment of increasing concerns around ethical recruitment of those workers," it said. "Immigration is often used as a short-term demand management strategy and it continues to be poorly coordinated. "Over a longer planning horizon, better management of migration pathways for international health professionals must occur in combination with all commonwealth departments... and the analysis must include evolving training and reform strategies." The measures were not adopted by the government at the latest federal election, but the submission is likely to be brought up again in coming months. Health Minister Sussan Ley has already hinted to a discussion about workplace reforms in the coming year. Both the Australian Medical Association and the Rural Doctors Association would support a visa restriction, but said incentives to make regional medical work more enticing for locally-trained practitioners would also help the staff shortages. According to the Immigration Department, at the end of March there were 2,155 general medical practitioners and 1,562 resident medical officers in Australia on the visas which would be wiped if the proposal is successful.