RACGP pledges to simplify IMG processes

Michelle Wisbey

1/08/2023 2:39:18 PM

Significant changes could be on the way for international medical graduate recruitment, with the final version of the Kruk report due shortly.

Doctor writing on clipboard.
The RACGP has spent time listening to its members with overseas qualifications to identify what can be improved.

The RACGP has committed to simplifying processes for international medical graduates (IMGs) to help bolster GP numbers across the country.
The potential changes come with the final report for the ‘Independent review of overseas health practitioner regulatory settings’, widely known as ‘the Kruk report’, due to be released imminently.
The review, overseen by former senior public servant Robyn Kruk, was agreed by National Cabinet last September to produce recommendations that could help ease health workforce shortages while maintaining high standards in healthcare quality and patient safety.
Following the release of an interim report in April, the College has committed to making its own assessment and accreditation processes simpler for applicants.
RACGP President Dr Nicole Higgins said she hopes these changes will create an easier pathway for international doctors to work in Australia.
‘The RACGP has been advocating to make it easier and more attractive for IMGs to come to Australia, to get more GPs into communities that need them,’ she said.
‘But we also know that, as a medical college which assesses and accredits IMGs to practice in Australia, we can help to make their journey easier.
‘We’ve spent time listening to our members with overseas qualifications who’ve gone through our processes to identify what can be improved, and we’ve committed to doing what we can to make it simpler, less onerous, and more streamlined.’
The measures being considered include:

  • simplifying and amending comparability assessments
  • reducing the training and skills comparability scores required
  • simplifying and amending comparability assessments
  • widening the type of training considered applicable
  • removing the multi-source feedback requirement
  • removing the requirement for a reflective essay
  • reducing the minimum time on the Specialist Pathway from six to three months.
However, the College warned strongly against a recommendation in the interim report to transition equivalence assessments for specialist medical graduates away from specialist medical colleges to the Australian Medical Council (AMC).  
Dr Higgins cited a 2005 Queensland Public Hospital Commission of Inquiry Report prompted by the case of Dr Jayant Patel at the Bundaberg Base Hospital, in which the American surgeon was eventually jailed following a series of deaths.

Dr Higgins said the case ‘made clear the risks to patient safety when specialist colleges don’t have responsibility for assessing specialist IMGs’.

‘We cannot risk this happening again,’ she said.

The RACGP also said assessments must consider where overseas doctors had previously worked to ensure they understand practicing in a rural setting, with around half of Australia’s rural medical workforce made up of IMGs.
‘Rural doctors need to have the right skills and ability to work independently because there is often less support available, as well as cultural safety training,’ Dr Higgins said.
Other recommendations which were included in the interim report and supported by the RACGP include:
  • creating a single portal for applications
  • the removal of labour market testing for employers sponsoring visas for priority practitioners
  • broadening age exemptions for permanent skilled visas
  • continued workforce support and demand modelling.
According to its terms of reference, the independent review was established to determine whether the current regulatory settings are ‘fit for purpose, comparable with similar countries, and are not imposing any unnecessary barriers or costs’.
In May, a Federal Parliament committee heard how Australia is lagging in efforts to attract IMGs, with red tape causing delays to recruiting qualified doctors, and in some instances putting them off a move to the country altogether.
The comparatively high costs in Australia were also raised, with the Primary Care Business Council detailing how recruiting an IMG in New Zealand takes around three months and costs $5000, while the same process averages 14 months in Australia at a cost of $23,000.
Ms Kruk, who formerly served as New South Wales Health Secretary and the inaugural CEO of the National Mental Health Commission, was appointed to lead the work for the review last December.
Under the scope of the review, she was tasked with making short-term recommendations that could be put into place within 12 months to ease skills shortages among a range of health practitioners, including doctors.
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Dr MT   2/08/2023 7:18:10 AM

What about increasing the number of medical students in Australia ! There are a lot of smart students who want to do Medicine but can not get in, because of the limited number intake.
Young High school graduates should be more prioritised over IMG

Dr Mandana Arshi   2/08/2023 10:03:56 AM

For me so far RACGP = rigid rules and regulations. Simplifying would be a great big change if RACGP can handle!, It sound a dream come through!
I am an IMG who has been going though all of these one by one since 2013!

Dr Javier Armando Campuzano Ortiz   2/08/2023 11:48:07 AM

we don't need to do that. we don't need more IMGs, and I say this being one.
What we need is more GP registrars, I have been trying to get a registrar in my practice and when I expressed my interest in having one, the college said that they would get in touch with me, they still have not. that was in October last year. unfortunately the RACGP is and always has been very clumsy.
the requirements should always be hard, as hard as they are now because local graduates and students should be prioritised.

Dr TS   5/08/2023 6:52:34 AM

IMG vs Local Students/ Registrars
( like making a car / driving a car )

Recruiting IMG - like bringing/importing a car from overseas ( which can be ready to drive) . They may be different driving / different systems. Australian cars are Right handed, there may be left handed in overseas. We can train them to drive Right handed car. May not be big problem! just a little fine tuning.

Local students/ registrars- like importing iron ores to make a car - need to do long process to make a car and costly. politician/ policy maker knew it.
Locally trained registrar can drive Right sided car easily, but costly$$$$$$ to build a car.

Which way would you choose????

I believe policy makers will choose IMG, very cost effective, and quick fix!