Doctors' hunger strike to resume
Nearly 14 months ago, Dr Asaad Razaghi and 39 other overseas-trained doctors, prevented from practicing in Australia, camped outside NSW Parliament House in Sydney on a hunger strike to bring the public's attention to their plight. Similar actions were taken in Melbourne and Canberra. Now, after broken government promises, they intend to strike again, on February 15. In 1997 the doctors wanted to raise awareness of Federal and State laws which discriminate against them, preventing them from practicing medicine in Australia. Staying strictly on a water-only diet, 11 of the hunger strikers were admitted to hospital suffering from dehydration, heat exhaustion and hypoglycemia. Following an agreement signed by them and the Federal and NSW Governments, which promised the removal of the discrimination, the doctors ended their strike. Dr Razaghi, spokesperson for the Australian Doctors Trained Overseas Association (ADTOA), says that political deceit combined with bureaucratic incompetence have destroyed the hunger strikers' faith in government promises. "This is a sad day for the international reputation of Australia, the country we have chosen and love", said Dr Razaghi, "but whose politicians, bureaucrats and professional power mongers have denied us our human rights and the opportunity to offer our professional health care skills to our fellow citizens who need them so much, particularly in outlying suburbs and rural areas." The hunger-striking doctors, when they resume their campaign, will drink water only and refuse food as they once again camp outside Australian parliamentary and government offices. Dr Razaghi is of Kurdish origin and trained at an overseas university recognised by Britain's medical schools, the World Health Organisation and Australian universities. He said that the resumption of the hunger strike has been forced upon him and other members of the ADTOA by government failure to keep any of the promises it made. "Not only has the Government betrayed the agreement I signed", he added, "but it has also fostered a splinter group which wrongfully uses our name, ADTOA." ADTOA says it has gathered a vast pile of evidence to prove corruption, including misuse of power, racism and many other factors effecting decisions on who will or will not practice medicine in Australia. Dr Razaghi has lodged a complaint with the Independent Commission Against Corruption, alleging that the examination and selection of medical practitioners in Australia are badly flawed, subject to corrupt practices and are contrary to competition. In relation to the latter, ADTOA has supplied several volumes of evidence to the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission. Complaints have also been lodged with State and Federal politicians, NSW Anti-Discrimination Board, Human Rights and Equal Opportunity Commission and the relevant State and Federal health authorities. There are already indications of overseas support. Last week the doctors, preparing for the strike, wrote to the United Nations Human Rights Organisation and the European Commission, which both recognised their grievances during the 1997 protest. "We are determined that this hunger strike will not be ended by double- dealing, hollow promises and division", said Dr Razaghi. He said Australia must not become a graveyard for migrant skills, particularly in medicine. "Country hospitals, rural health sectors, public hospitals, community health centres and patients in outlying suburbs and the bush are losing out because of this discrimination."