While many people decry the changes to DPA/DWS and the RACGP Specialist Pathway, the real barrier to GP recruitment is the Health Workforce Certificate (HWC). Forget DPA and forget RACGP, if you don’t have a HWC, you can’t work.
What is a Health Workforce Certificate?
A Health Workforce Certificate (HWC) is required if a practice intends to hire an overseas doctor. This new requirement was introduced as part of the Visas for GPs initiative in March 2019 in order to limit the ability of overseas doctors to take up Australian GP jobs in metropolitan areas and to address the shortage of GPs in rural and remote areas.
Under the new guidelines, practices require the endorsement of a Rural Workforce Agency (RWA) in form of a Health Workforce Certificate if they want to employ an overseas trained doctor.
HWC Requirement for Sponsoring Overseas Trained Doctors
Many people don’t understand that any GPs (both VR and non VR) now need a Health Workforce Certificate if they require visa sponsorship of any kind, such as:
- Temporary Skill Shortage (TSS) Visa
- Employer Nomination Scheme (ENS) visas
- Regional Sponsored Migration Scheme (RSMS) visa
This does not apply to any other workforce group in Australia (including hospital specialists), but it certainly has an impact on GPs.
Why Health Workforce Certificates are The Real Barrier to Overseas Recruitment
For those who are not already aware, the issuing of HWC is controlled by a Government Agency (RWA) that has no mandate to support outer metro areas and exists entirely to support rural and regional healthcare.
So until now, there have been virtually no HWCs issued for any areas that are MMM1. At the same time, the classification of MMM1 has been changed to include many areas that were previously considered regional (e.g Central Coast).
Fortunately, the HWC can be changed instantly if the Department of Health decides to make localised changes. They simply need to instruct their key employees or public servants to use a different approach to be granting the HWC and things will change quickly. This is not the case with legislation for 19AA or 19AB and so I find it encouraging to hear that the Department is seeking feedback
This gives me hope that sensible changes will be implemented to ensure that there are fewer unexpected negative consequences as a result of policy changes. In the meantime, if you are a practice owner, make sure you give regular feedback to your PHN, RWA agency or local MP to ensure that local anomalies are not overlooked.
Health Workforce Locator
The Health Workforce Locator is an online tool you can use to find health workforce classifications and incentives for different areas of Australia. It also helps you determine whether a specific location may be eligible for a Health Workforce Certificate.