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Retraining of Overseas Doctors

Health Minister Annette King today announced an $11.8 million Budget package for retraining overseas doctors.

Mrs King said the Government had committed the money in the Budget to be spent over the next three years on bridging programmes for a specific group of immigrant doctors.

"The programme will focus on the most important knowledge and skills needed for a doctor to practise safely and competently in New Zealand."

Doctors who were granted residency under the immigration policy of 1991 to 1995 were eligible for training under the package, she said. "They are being helped because they were granted residency based on their professional qualifications, but were inadequately informed of registration examinations they would have to undergo before they could enter the workforce.

"This is a win win situation which benefits both the overseas trained doctors and also the New Zealand health system. It gives New Zealand residents who trained overseas the opportunity to update and utilise their medical skills.

"The Ministry of Health has been working with the New Zealand Overseas Trained Doctors Association, the Medical Council, hospitals and medical schools to develop the programme. It will continue working with them to ensure the benefit is maximised to the doctors and our health system.

"More than 300 doctors have expressed interest in participating in these programmes. The first course will start in medical schools in February next year, but some of the doctors, who have recently gained USMLE qualifications, could be employed by hospitals now to begin the six-month trainee intern part of the programme. The money is there for the hospitals. I am urging them to use it to alleviate the shortages of doctors that have recently been identified," Mrs King said.

Mrs King said the previous Government had tried to put an overseas doctors programme in place, but had failed to get agreement on components of the package. "They announced a similar financial package, but hadn't worked out the details of implementation with the key players before they did so."

For further information, contact John Harvey (04) 471 9305.


Background information

1. Eligibility criteria: Each overseas doctor must
 hold an overseas medical qualification and Certificate of Good Standing verified by the Medical Council of New Zealand
 have been granted residence in New Zealand under the General Skills Category (points system) of Residence Policy that was in force between 18 November 1991 and 29 October 1995 (while priority access will be given to principal applicants, the spouses/partners of principal applicants who were granted residence under those same criteria will also be eligible, provided they obtained residence under that same immigration policy).
 have passed or been exempted an English test approved by the Medical Council.

2. Part A, Refresher course. The key features are:
 open entry to all those who meet the eligibility criteria listed above.
 a refresher course of medical knowledge and skills comprising one semester (four and a half months) of lectures and tutorials. It will cover the main clinical areas (for example, medicine, surgery, paediatrics), professional development (for example, communication skills, medico-legal issues, Maori and Pacific health issues) and clinical skills (including clinical examination techniques). The course will therefore focus on the most important knowledge and skills needed for a doctor to practise safely and competently in New Zealand.
 an assessment component in each module which together comprises 60 percent of total marks. As well, at the end of the semester there will be a written assessment comprising 40 percent of marks, mainly multiple choice and short answers. An overall pass mark of 50 percent is required and the standard is equivalent to that expected of a New Zealand medical student at the end of their 5th year. A pass of Part A's assessment is accepted by the Medical Council as an alternative to USMLE Steps 1 and 2 for this group of doctors. The opportunity to repeat Part A once is offered to those who fail. A pass in Part A is required to gain entry to Part B.

3. Part B, Trainee intern period. The key features are:
 a 6 month trainee intern period, involving rotations through supervised placements (for example, general medicine, general surgery, paediatrics), mainly in public hospitals.
 a report on each trainee intern is provided by supervisors.

4. NZREX Clinical. Overseas doctors who undertake the bridging programme must still pass NZREX Clinical (the same clinical assessment undertaken by all overseas trained doctors seeking probationary registration leading to general registration). The Medical Council routinely allows three attempts at NZREX Clinical.

5. Probationary registration. Those who pass NZREX Clinical will need to obtain positions in New Zealand health services that meet the Medical Council supervision requirements for probationary registration, leading to general registration.

6. Fees, loans and allowances. Overseas doctors who undertake the bridging programme will be charged the usual examination fee for NZREX Clinical. The course providers (the Schools of Medicine) will be seeking course approval from the Ministry of Education so that those who undertake the bridging programme will be eligible for student loans and allowances according to the usual criteria and that one attempt at NZREX Clinical on completion of the bridging programme is included as a course fee for student loan purposes.

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