The Australian Government Department of Health has released details of an initiative designed to direct primary healthcare doctors to areas in Australia with the greatest need. Due to an increase in locally trained medical graduates, along with no reduction in the number of overseas trained doctors (OTDs) entering Australia, General Practitioner numbers have increased at a rate of three times faster than population growth over the last decade.
Projections from the 2014 Australia’s Future Workforce report show that the country will have around 7,000 excess medical practitioners by 2030. Consequently, the Australian Government has decided to reduce the number of overseas-trained GPs entering Australia through the skilled migration program by around 800 over a four-year period. Regulating the number of OTDs is expected to provide more opportunities to Australian trained medical graduates.
The Visas for GPs initiative also aims to reduce unnecessary growth in major capital cities and metropolitan areas which are already well serviced by General Practitioners. The initiative will impact overseas-trained doctors applying from both within and outside Australia, however it will not prevent OTDs who are currently practicing in Australia from continuing to work in their current position.
The initiative does not affect the eligibility of an overseas trained doctor to obtain a visa, it does however restrict the options for employers to recruit OTDs only to areas of need.
Who is affected?
The Visas for GPs Initiative applies to occupation codes for:
- General Medical Practitioner (253111)
- Resident Medical Officer (253112)
- Medical Practitioner not elsewhere classified (253999)
Visas affected by the initiative are:
- Temporary Skills Shortage (482)
- Employer Nomination Scheme (subclass 186)
- Regional Sponsored Migration Scheme (subclass 187)
New requirements for employers sponsoring OTDs commenced on the 11th of March this year. Under the initiative, employers wishing to fill a position with a doctor under one of the visas mentioned above will be required to obtain a Health Workforce Certificate (HWC), issued by a Rural Workforce Agency who will assess the suitability of an employer nominated position. Once issued, Health Workforce Certificates are valid for a three-month period and linked to a position not an individual. The RWA will not assess an OTD’s suitability for a visa, however visas will not be granted if a Certificate confirming a genuine need to fill a primary healthcare position is not provided as part of an employer sponsored visa nomination application.
To support the initiative, the Department of Health has developed a planning and assessment tool to ensure distribution of overseas trained doctors to areas where they are most needed. The planning tool will also assist Rural Workforce Agencies in determining if positions advertised are located in areas of need.
Overseas trained doctors working in a hospital-based role will not be impacted as employer nominated hospital-based positions will automatically be issued a Health Workforce Certificate. Employers of hospital-based positions will be able to nominate multiple positions on a single application, allowing for bulk recruitment. Overseas trained doctors who signed contracts of engagement prior to 11th March will also automatically be granted a Health Workforce Certificate, even if the location of the position does not meet the new HWC criteria.
Overseas students graduating from an Australian medical school will be issued an expedited Health Workforce Certificate and will be able to seek work in Australia. Medical occupations outside those listed above are not affected by the initiative. OTDs who are unable to work in a specific medical practice due to lack of a Health Workforce Certification are encouraged to contact the RWA in their preferred state or territory.