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Tuesday, March 22, 2016

Migrant doctors needed in rural Australia

Dr Parisa Pour Ali

Migrant doctors have a tough time getting registered in Australia, as Dr Parisa Pour Ali knows very well, coming from Iran.

After seven years medical training in Iran, it took her another two years of accreditations before she was allowed to practice in Australia.  And even though there is a shortage of doctors in rural areas, it's still very hard for them to find work.  

She endured a year of frustrating rejections before she eventually found work in Merimbula, a country town on the far south coast of NSW, a town that was part of a program to place migrant doctors.

She said that medical clinics preferred locally trained doctors.  "It's not about discrimination or racism" she said.  "Even for me, if I was a practice manager of a clinic, I would prefer to get someone who already has Australian registration.

Peter Cumming, practice manager of the clinic where Dr Pour Ali works, said the problem for rural clinics was finding doctors.

"Australian graduates won't come to the bush but migrant doctors will" he said.  "Younger, Australian-educated fully qualified general practitioners won't come to a country town because they want to pursue their careers in the cities."

And older doctors won't come because their partners refuse to leave city life or are in another profession that's not needed in the area.

The first step for a migrant doctor is to be employed "under the supervision of a GP" until they pass their exams.

Mr Cummings said in Merimbula, the clinic doctors were faced with a large population of retirees and four nursing homes.

Dr Pour Ali said she only has one complaint - the time limit on consultations.

"You have to see the patient in 10-15 minutes" she said. "Sometimes it makes me frustrated because some patients, especially in this area, are elderly and have multiple diseases." 

Mr Cumming said that Dr Pour Ali had excellent English but the problem for migrant doctors is colloquialisms and slang.

"Sometimes it's a challenge, especially when older people use some specific expression or slang and then younger people use a different slang. I have to understand, I shouldn't miss even one word because it could be a specific symptom" she said.

Mr Cumming said there were a number of valued migrant doctors in the region, filling a great need.

Dr Pour Ali still has more exams to pass before she is fully registered so the next time you visit your GP, who just happens to be a migrant, you might consider the considerable effort and hardship they have had to go through to be taking your blood pressure today.