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Foreign doctor training scheme

Wednesday, 3 November 1999

For immediate release

Dr Ralph Wiles Chairperson

Foreign doctor training scheme does not offer answer for rural GP shortage

The recently announced scheme to offer special training and assistance to foreign doctors provided they are prepared to work in remote areas offers little or no hope of solving the shortage of GPs in rural areas, says the Royal NZ College of General Practitioners.

"To practice as a General Practitioner or indeed as a specialist in any other branch of medicine without supervision, a doctor must become vocationally registered," explained College Chairperson Dr Ralph Wiles. "The standards for Vocational Registration are set by the Medical Council of New Zealand. From 2001, any General Practitioner not vocationally registered will have to practice under supervision.

"The process of training for foreign doctors described by the Minister will certify that they are trained to a similar standard to a medical school graduate with an MBChB degree," Dr Wiles explained. From there, any doctor wanting to enter General Practice goes into a three year programme of training involving two years working in a hospital, and usually a further year in the General Practice Vocational Training Programme. They then sit an examination called Primex, which tests both medical knowledge and things like communication skills and empathy with patients. If they pass that exam there is a further two years of structured GP experience, under supervision of a vocationally registered GP, before they undergo a thorough assessment from a senior practitioner who visits them in their practice.

"Assuming all these steps are completed that doctor then becomes a Fellow of the College (FRNZCGP), which currently is the only qualification recognised by the Medical Council as entitling a GP to Vocational Registration after 2001.

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"We have had preliminary discussions with the Ministry of Health who have assured us that foreign doctors will require the same qualifications as New Zealand Medical School graduates if they want to practice as GPs," Dr Wiles confirmed. "That is entirely appropriate the need for GPs in rural areas should not be used as an excuse to foist a lesser standard of care on to remote areas.

"Given that that is not the case in this instance, a foreign doctor completing the new process (which takes six to twelve months) would still be five years away from independent General Practice. So the scheme, while offering a much-needed opportunity to overseas doctors to embark on a path that will eventually make use of their skills rather than seeing them going to waste as at present, will not do much for the immediate problems of rural areas."

ends

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