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20 Aug 2018

ABC News has reported that international doctors are leaving practice in rural areas after failing exams set by the Medical Board of Australia (MBA).

According to the report, four out of five overseas doctors, some of whom have worked in small towns for as many as 10 years, are failing the MBA clinical exam, which is designed to prove they meet national standards.

Historically, overseas doctors were not required to sit any local exams before they were placed in ‘areas of need’ across rural Australia, where more than 3000 foreign doctors are currently practising. 

MBA Chair, Dr Joanna Flynn AM, told ABC reporter Danielle Grindley that, ideally, all doctors who worked in Australia would have the full qualifications before they started work, but some years ago there was a period of workforce need, especially in rural areas.

“But today the expectation that those doctors will meet the Australian standard has become clearer,” Dr Flynn said.

“If their performance in the exam is at a very low level, it raises questions about whether they are actually safe to practise.”

In 2013, all international doctors were told they had three years to pass the clinical exam or face deregistration.

Dr Flynn said there was a period of leniency, where many doctors were given extensions, but that time had come to an end. 

“The Board has a set of standards that are now being very deliberately implemented,” she said.

“For some people, that raises the bar that they have to cross to be able to either get into the workplace in the first place, or remain in the workplace.”

In a statement, a Health Department spokeswoman said the Medical Board of Australia was ‘independent of Government and neither the Minister nor the Department could intervene on individual registration matters’

Published: 20 Aug 2018