IMG GPs face longer waits, higher costs

3 minute read

The Kruk report recommends expanding fast-track registration to reduce the extra burden on overseas-trained doctors applying for general practice.

Internationally trained doctors who come to Australia to work in general practice pay an extra $10,000 and face an extra three-month wait for registration compared to their non-GP specialist peers, according to the Kruk Review.

The final report from senior civil servant Robyn Kruk’s Independent Review of Overseas Health Practitioner Regulatory Settings was made public for the first time yesterday, after being handed to the government in October.

It largely built on the interim report delivered in April this year.

To do general practice in Australia, it takes an overseas trained doctor a median of 70 weeks from the day they start the registration process to the day they receive their full registration.

Overseas trained doctors wanting to do other specialties face the more reasonable timeframe of 56 weeks to registration.

Around three-quarters of specialist international medical graduates go into general practice, making the lag time even more curious.

Compared to all other internationally trained health practitioners, GPs found it the hardest to get supervision.

While only 27% of occupational therapists and 25% of psychologists told the Kruk Review that they found it hard to find a job with someone willing to supervise them, this applied to almost two-thirds of internationally trained GPs working in rural and remote Australia.

It’s also likely that the 70-week figure is an underestimate, given the Kruk Review did not collect data on the wait time for internationally trained GPs to sit and receive results from the pre-employment structured clinical interview (PESCI).

Overseas-trained GPs also wind up paying a median of $33,880 out of pocket during the registration process, compared to $23,425 for other medical specialists.

Due to the addition of the PESCI for general practice, would-be GPs spend around $2000 more than their non-GP counterparts on exam fees.

One of the big recommendations from Ms Kruk was to expand the existing fast-track registration pathways, a move that could potentially shave off 42 weeks and 80% of the cost for overseas GPs.

“For international medical graduates, the [fast-track] pathway is offered to practitioners who are registered in countries with comparable healthcare standards to Australia,” she wrote.

“The eligibility for these pathways is narrow and it has been identified that there is a significant number of [internationally qualified health practitioners] who are not currently eligible for these pathways who could be eligible while still maintaining the safety and high-quality standards.”  

Speaking after National Cabinet on Wednesday, Prime Minister Anthony Albanese committed to funding all health-related recommendations included in the report.

The funding forms part of a new $1.2 billion package under the Strengthening Medicare banner.

It’s unclear what portion will go toward implementing the Kruk Review recommendations.

In a direct response to the report, AHPRA has already confirmed that from Monday 18 December it will no longer require overseas-based applicants to attend an in-person identity check prior to registration.

“We hope this change will reduce costs and administrative burden and encourage international health practitioners to come to work in Australia,” regulator CEO Martin Fletcher said.

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