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Overseas Doctors Go Into Ballot For Training

Health Minister Annette King says the initiative to retrain overseas doctors has attracted so much interest that it will be necessary to ballot doctors for the first retraining programmes at Auckland and Otago medical schools next year.

Mrs King said doctors who received retraining would be bonded for a year after completing the programme and probationary registration.

On June 8 Mrs King announced an $11.8 million package, spread over three years, to retrain a specific group of immigrant doctors who were granted residency under the immigration policy in place from 1991 to 1995.

"I said then that more than 300 doctors had expressed an interest in retraining programmes. Well, the interest has been absolutely phenomenal. The Ministry of Health has received more than 2000 expressions of interest.

"Of course, many may not meet the strict eligibility criteria, but more than 220 applications so far screened by the Medical Council meet all the requirements, and there could be up to 1200 who do so. That is a huge number, and a ballot is the only fair way to choose the 100 for retraining on the first two courses next year. Another ballot will be held in November 2001 for the next three courses."

Mrs King described the success of the initiative as a "win win situation for both overseas doctors resident in New Zealand and for our public health service.

"We have the opportunity to tap into a group of people whose talents, experience and knowledge were being largely wasted."

Mrs King said the Overseas Doctors Association had agreed to a bond system. "The bond deed requires them to sit the Medical Council's clinical examination having satisfactorily completed the bridging programme, apply for probationary registration, complete the probationary period (usually one year), and then work for another year in New Zealand under general registration.

"They will have to repay $40,000, the cost per student of running the programme, if they do not complete the one year of practice. They will not be penalised if they fail to complete the bridging programme or gain probationary registration."


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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