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Addressing shortages requires proper workforce planning

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The Australian Medical Association is calling for effective planning for the future medical workforce and support for international graduates.

In response to an interim report by the Independent Review of Overseas Health Practitioner Regulatory Settings, the Australian Medical Association (AMA) has called for enhanced planning and support measures to ensure a well-equipped medical workforce that meets community needs. The AMA also emphasised the importance of assisting international medical graduates in adapting to the Australian health system.

The AMA expressed general support for initiatives aimed at streamlining migration and registration processes for overseas health professionals seeking employment in Australia. However, AMA President Steve Robson stressed the need for more effective planning rather than relying solely on short-term solutions such as increasing the intake of overseas health professionals.

“The sheer lack of staff in a wide range of health professions is causing patients to wait longer for care, so we should be looking at how we speed up the unnecessarily complex visa system for international medical graduates and other health care professionals,” Professor Robson said.

“But there needs to be a comprehensive solution, backed by policies that legitimately encourage international medical graduates to work in the locations and areas of practice where they are most needed.”

To achieve these goals, the AMA’s submission recommended the reinstatement of an independent health workforce planning agency. Such an agency would be responsible for developing credible research-backed initiatives related to training, recruitment, and retention of healthcare professionals.

The AMA expressed opposition to the interim report’s recommendation of transferring the assessment process for international graduates in specialist fields to the Australian Medical Council. Robson argued that this change would undermine the crucial role of medical colleges in setting standards for medical practice, emphasising the need to maintain high-quality standards for all healthcare professionals.

“Australian trained doctors are among the best in the world, and it is important international medical graduates working here are of the same standard.”

The AMA’s submission also emphasised the importance of providing adequate support to international medical graduates, who often work in rural and remote Australia and struggle to navigate the country’s health system.

“International medical graduates tell us they don’t receive appropriate support to help them adjust to working and living in Australia. Sadly, they report high levels of racism, discrimination and prejudice, which is totally unacceptable and needs to be addressed immediately,” Robson said.

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