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14 Dec 2015

In August, I promised readers of this column that I would let you know when the AMA’s Position Statement on international medical graduates (IMGs) was ready.

At the time, I compared the challenges IMGs faced in 2004 (when the AMA published it first Position Statement) with contemporary circumstances. Australia’s medical workforce situation is now at a critical point, particularly regarding access to training places and workforce distribution. The AMA is leaving no stone unturned in seeking solutions to the many problems we are encountering.

Our 2004 position statement on IMGs, or overseas-trained doctors as we knew them then, was appropriate for the time, but Australia’s medical workforce situation has changed since then. IMGs working in Australia now face a different set of challenges, and the burgeoning number of Australian graduates require an accessible training pipeline.

IMGs – doctors who did their primary medical training outside Australia – remain an important part of the workforce. After all, they represent more than 25 per cent of Australia’s medical workforce, and a much higher proportion in rural and remote areas of the country.

The AMA Federal Council approved a new Position Statement in late November. International Medical Graduates 2015 acknowledges the enormous contribution IMGs are making to the delivery of health care in Australia, particularly in providing patients with access to care in under-serviced communities.

The document outlines the AMA’s priorities for assessing, recruiting, training and supporting IMGs. We recommend that:

  • Australia follows ethical recruitment guidelines (not taking doctors from countries that have an even greater need for them);
  • IMGs have the information they need to make fully informed choices about working in Australia;
  • nationally consistent standards are used for assessing, training, and supervising IMGs;
  • flexible assessment pathways are available for IMGs, including workplace-based assessment;
  • medical colleges use transparent standards when assessing overseas qualifications;
  • IMGs have strong English language skills, but that the benefits of multilingual skills when caring for patients from non-English speaking backgrounds is also recognised;
  • there is mandatory orientation (including cultural sensitivity) for IMGs;
  • there is appropriate educational and community support for IMGs and their families;
  • employers should make all reasonable efforts to recruit locally before employing IMGs;
  • IMGs receive the same pay and conditions as their locally trained colleagues; and
  • the 10-year moratorium on Medicare provider numbers be removed.

The AMA is adamant that better workforce planning is an urgent priority. There is no doubt that, in the years to come, our reliance on IMGs will change.

In 2015, we still lack the data and the institutional will of governments to ensure adequate training and a fair distribution of doctors across the nation.

I believe the IMG Position Statement demonstrates the AMA’s ongoing commitment to IMGs, and our determination to address the medical workforce predicament that we face.

You can read the full statement at https://ama.com.au/position-statement/international-medical-graduates-2015


Published: 14 Dec 2015