Australia opens exam centres in India to recruit doctors

By Neena Bhandari, IANS,

Sydney : Australia is set to open five examination centres in India to recruit overseas trained doctors, desperately needed to meet the acute shortage of medical professionals in the country.

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Indian doctors, who have applied for migration to Australia, will be able to sit for a multiple-choice exam that will test their medical knowledge at one of the five centres in New Delhi, Mumbai, Bangalore, Hyderabad and Chennai, The Australian newspaper reported Tuesday.

The first exams are scheduled to be held as early as Nov 17-19.

Until now, Indian doctors had to sit for the exam in testing centres set up for the past few years in Singapore, Hong Kong, Dubai or London.

The Australian government, under the MedicarePlus reforms introduced five years ago, had pledged not to actively recruit or in other words poach doctors from developing countries such as India.

“There has been a very careful review of the situation in India, and we have been given instruction that they are no longer part of these sensitive areas,” Australian Medical Council Chief Executive Ian Frank told The Australian.

“We are permitted to go back in there now. We don’t think it’s going to make a significant difference to the number recruited, it will just make it a bit easier for the candidates,” Frank told The Australian.

India is perhaps the biggest single source of overseas trained doctors migrating to Australia. About 6,500 foreign doctors come to work in Australia each year, most of them from the Indian subcontinent, Britain and South Africa.

However, in the aftermath of the much publicised botched terrorism case of Indian doctor Muhammad Haneef, the number of overseas trained doctors coming from India had plummeted.

The Australian health system relies heavily on foreign doctors, particularly in regional and remote areas where Australians don’t want to work. Forty percent of all doctors in Australia were overseas trained and a large proportion of these doctors hail from the Indian subcontinent. Almost 15 percent of overseas trained doctors in Australia are Indians.

In recent years, there has been lot of talk about making tests more stringent for overseas trained doctors and also formally assessing knowledge and skills of medical professionals before they arrive on the shores of Australia, especially after
India-born US doctor Jayant Patel’s case came to light few years ago.

Patel has been charged with 14 offences, including three counts of manslaughter, two counts of grievous bodily harm, and fraud, relating to his employment as director of surgery at regional Bundaberg Base Hospital in Queensland between 2003 and 2005.

He will face court for a committal hearing in February next year. It is said to be probably the worst medical-negligence scandal in the country.