The Guardian August 25, 1999


Overseas trained doctors take action:
NSW Government accused of racism

In their campaign to be allowed to practice in Australia, the members of 
the Australian Doctors Trained Overseas Association (ADTOA) have lodged a 
complaint of overt and covert racial discrimination against the NSW 
Director General of Health. The complaint came after a visiting white South 
African doctor, Harry van Rensburg, was allowed to practice medicine even 
though he had failed an Australian Medical Council exam.

"Our members who have also failed the discredited Australian Medical 
Council exam are grinding their teeth", said ADTOA National President, Dr 
Asaad Razaghi, "not in envy of his [Rensburg] success, as they wish him 
well, but because they are from the wrong countries of origin, definitely 
not British or of Commonwealth countries."

Dr Razaghi said the exam was a discredited process, a relic of the White 
Australia policy. Those who had failed it were forced to drive taxis or 
wash dishes while their families suffered, yet this South African doctor 
has been given special treatment.

ADTOA have lodged their complaint with the Administrative Decisions 
Tribunal (Equal Opportunity Division). The case began on August 18 and is 
the first of its kind in Australia.

Dr Razaghi said the NSW Government had ignored both medical standards and 
training responsibilities, concentrating instead on helping Temporary 
Resident Doctors provided they came from "chosen" countries.

The ADTOA claims that the NSW Health Department, with the help of the NSW 
Medical Board, has overtly and covertly discriminated against migrant and 
refugee doctors on the basis of country of origin to prevent them from 
working as doctors.

As further evidence of widespread discrimination, Dr Razaghi sited a 
Queensland Government advertisement in Brisbane's Courier-Mail in 
July this year offering Temporary Resident Doctors $700 per shift. The 
advertisement called for 250 doctors from the United Kingdom "who might 
fancy working in Australia for a time".

Western Australia's rural medical workforce recruitment is restricted to 
college graduates from the United Kingdom, Ireland, New Zealand, Canada, 
Hong Kong, Singapore and South Africa.

In NSW the doctor from South Africa, and another from Wales, have failed 
the test but are registered while many migrant and refugee doctors who have 
been out of work for years have been denied work due to the official policy 
of discrimination.

The ADTOA said that now that the NSW Medical Board had overturned the 
deregistration of the South African and Welsh doctors it should overturn 
all discrimination and prohibit any decision based on country of origin.

The same discriminatory approach is reflected in the Federal Government's 
position.

In 1996 Federal Health Minister Dr Michael Wooldridge announced that newly-
arrived foreign doctors would be banned from entering general practice for 
at least ten years "to close the flood of foreign doctors entering the 
country".

Then in 1997 Wooldridge even intimated that foreign doctors were potential 
killers, claiming that more than half the foreign doctors in Australia 
would fail to save any mother hemorrhaging after childbirth.

This same Minister in 1999 offered automatic registration to foreign 
doctors from Singapore, Ireland, New Zealand, South Africa and England even 
if they had failed the Australian Medical Council Exam.

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