The Guardian January 27, 1999


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."

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