BOB Katter says overseas-trained doctors are bad medicine for rural and regional Australians because they have "language and cultural problems".
The Kennedy MP this morning issued a media release saying the health department supported his view that "visa doctors" made the nation's medico shortage even worse than it is.
The Federal Government has long struggled to get Australian medical graduates, and seasoned professionals, to swap big city lifestyles for rural and regional areas.
Overseas trained doctors are often more willing to take on bush practices and must commit for minimum periods to gain Medicare provider number benefits.
"I'm not against foreign doctors," Mr Katter said.
"I've personally had my life saved twice by foreign doctors, whilst many would have rejoiced in their failure; the fact is I'm still here because of these doctors.
"But a lot of foreign doctors struggle with language, a lot struggle with cultural problems.
"These are very real issues and it's not just me saying it, it's the AMA and our own health department."
The Department of Health wants the Federal Government to remove medical occupations from the Skilled Occupation List for overseas workers
The list describes what Australian occupations would benefit from foreign workers.
However, the department said its decision was based on the number of doctors already in Australia and it was not based on perceived cultural and language barriers.
"As the number of Australian-trained doctors has increased substantially over the past decade, it's timely to consider whether existing immigration markers are still appropriate for our health workforce needs," the department told the ABC.
"The Department's submission on the skills list reflects that position."
Universities, medical associations and the Federal Government are working working to get with young in-training medicos to do their work experience in the bush in the hopes they will stay on.
The Federal Government provides financial incentives for bush practitioners and universities are increasing their intake of rural and regional medical students.
The government also offers the five-year overseas trained doctor scheme.
By signing up to this scheme, overseas trained doctors who commit to areas in need have their 10-year Medicare provider number restrictions cut in half (or even down to three years if the area they choose to practice in is very remote).
Rural Doctors Association of Australia president Ewen McPhee said fixing the medical practitioner shortage with visa doctors was not the long-term answer.
"International medical graduates have made, and continue to make, an immensely significant contribution as valued local doctors in many rural and remote communities" Dr McPhee said.
"In many cases, medical services in these communities would no longer be available if dedicated and long-serving international medical graduates were not there to keep them going.
"But it is not right that we should continue to rely on enticing more and more international medical graduates from their own countries to prop up the Australian health system, when we now have enough Australian-trained medical graduates to meet demand.
"What we do need, however, are a range of better supports and incentives to entice more Australian-trained medical graduates with the advanced skills needed to work in rural and remote areas." - ARM NEWSDESK
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