20 December 2022

RACGP welcomes Ahpra moves to fast-track international doctors to boost medical workforce

The Royal Australian College of General Practitioners (RACGP) has applauded moves to fast-track entry of international doctors to Australia to boost the medical workforce at a time of critical need.

The Australian Health Practitioner Regulation Agency (Ahpra) today announced it is acting to bolster the medical workforce, including working to cut the time to safely assess applications.

Ahpra said the number of international doctors arriving in Australia is back to pre-pandemic levels.

It has also introduced measures to help international medical graduates apply to come to Australia, including a new hub for applicants to help them find information to get registered to work in Australia quickly and easily.

RACGP President Dr Nicole Higgins welcomed Ahpra acting on the RACGP’s calls.

“Since the pandemic put the bake on international doctors coming to Australia, the RACGP has been calling for fast-tracked entry for those GPs who are ready and eager to work in the communities that need them most,” she said.

“Australia’s primary care workforce is suffering severe shortages – it’s not just GPs, its nurses, and pharmacists too. The nurses’ union raised the alarm of at least 8,000 positions vacant in July. And the Pharmaceutical Society of Australia has also been warning of persistent challenges in recruiting and retaining pharmacists, with those who are in the job stretched to the limit.

“There is a maldistribution of GPs in Australia, with the most severe shortages in rural and remote communities.

“As a regional GP in Mackay, I am seeing the impact of GP practices being forced to close because they have no GPs. And it is truly devastating for their local communities.

“Doctors who have come to Australia to work as GPs are an integral part of our healthcare system in rural and remote Australia, and they account for 50% of the today’s GP workforce Australia-wide.

“I have very pleased that Ahpra has listened to us and acted. This is a positive step in the right direction to boosting the medical workforce, including GPs, and improving access to care for communities in need.

“However, the government needs to do much more to secure the future of general practice care for patients Australia-wide.

“Too many of Australia’s political leaders just don’t get it. They need to wake up and recognise that there is no substitute for GPs – GPs are the only practitioners who provide ongoing comprehensive and holistic care. It takes well over 10 years’ training to be able to diagnose, treat and manage conditions, and provide the preventative care that keeps people healthy and out of hospital.

“The government should be doing all they can to secure the future of general practice care, because GPs are the solution to Australia’s health crisis – the crippling rates of chronic disease, mental health, ageing population and need for complex, ongoing care. This is what GPs take care of, in clinics across the country every single day.

“The evidence shows investing in general practice care improves patient health and wellbeing outcomes and reduces the need for expensive hospital care.

“But healthcare funding is totally topsy turvy – general practice provides the vast majority of health services to Australian patients annually but receives just 8% of total health expenditure in Australia and has long been in decline.

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