Health Questions

June 22, 2017

Launceston General Hospital - Credentialing of Medical Specialists

 

Ms Armitage (Launceston) question to Acting Leader of the Government in the Legislative Council, Mrs Hiscutt.

 

Mr Deputy President, I may need to seek your indulgence because this question has a fairly long preamble.

 

The Launceston General Hospital Emergency Department has many vacancies for specialist positions, with the Tasmanian Health Service - THS - having engaged a recruitment agency at considerable cost.  The agency has come up with some well‑qualified emergency physicians from the United Kingdom and the United States of America.

 

With the normal course of events, these doctors should get their specialist qualifications in Australia after meeting Australian Medical Council - AMC - guidelines.  In the case of emergency medicine, this usually requires three or six months of supervised practice in an appropriate hospital.

 

At least eight doctors have done their supervised practice at the LGH and have gained fellowship and, hence, specialist registration with the Australian Health Practitioner Regulation Agency, AHPRA.  Two good candidates plus a registrar, the partner of one of them, were due to be issued with instruments of appointment last week.

 

This was unable to be done because the THS credentialing committee now requires credentialing to be done before an instrument of appointment is issued.  Credentialing, among other things, requires a doctor working in the specialist position to have appropriate registration as a specialist with AHPRA.  An overseas doctor cannot get specialist recognition until, in the case of emergency medicine, they have at the very least worked a period of supervised practice in Australia.

 

This is a classic catch 22 situation because we are unable to offer positions to suitable overseas-trained specialists, so the whole effort of advertising and recruiting through the retained assignment is fairly pointless.  We will remain dependent on locums, with all the disadvantages and expenses that entails.

 

We have applicants from overseas for the position of neurologist, who will also not be able to be offered instruments of appointment.  I assume this will be the same for endocrinology, should there be an applicant from overseas.

 

This recruitment is important for the Department of Medicine to regain its accreditation.  This is time-critical because there are many positions vacant in regional Australia and the applicants will just go elsewhere, not to mention our reputation for employing senior staff if we cannot offer them positions because of a circular process which makes that impossible.

 

Will the Minister for Health, Mr Ferguson, sort out this new bureaucracy promptly and provide a time frame to alleviate this problem and allow the recruitment of these much‑needed specialists?  If not, why not?

 

Answer from the Acting Leader of Government, Leonie Hiscutt MLC

 

Mr Deputy President, I thank the member for Launceston for her question.  The recruitment of new medical specialists to the Launceston General Hospital is a key priority to the Tasmanian Health Service.  When undertaking recruitment overseas, overseas‑trained specialist candidates are now offered a contract conditional on being successfully credentialed to work in the hospital and on fulfilling the requirements of the Australian Health Practitioners Regulation Agency.

 

The THS has been reviewing its overseas medical specialist recruitment process to improve the timeliness and competitiveness of employment offers.  I am advised it is not the case that an overseas doctor must have already worked a period of supervised practice in Australia before being credentialed.  Rather, the respective college and AHPRA assess specialist international medical graduates.  If they are deemed comparable or partially comparable to an Australian specialist, they are provided with a pathway that allows them the opportunity to achieve the equivalent Australian Fellowship. 

 

Being an overseas trained medical specialist candidate for recruitment is not a barrier to employment or credentialing.  A number of such specialists are already credentialed and employed within the THS.  The THS has been working to clarify these matters with existing applicants and is working very hard with medical directors at the Launceston General Hospital to recruit new medical specialists to the LGH.

 

Launceston General Hospital - Credentialing of Medical Specialists

 

Ms Armitage question to Acting Leader of the Government in the Legislative Council, Mrs Hiscutt.

 

Acting Leader, so that I am clear about this when I speak to some of these doctors this evening, where it says they were due to be issued instruments of appointment last week - which was not done - can you tell me why they were not issued with those instruments of appointment last week when they were due?

 

Answer

I will have to take that on notice because the answer is generic.

 

Further remarks on June 22 2017 6.03 pm from the Acting Leader of Government in the Legislative Council, the Honourable Leonie Hiscutt MLC

 

Launceston General Hospital - Recruitment

 

Mrs Hiscutt (Montgomery - Leader of the Government in the Legislative Council) –

 

Mr President, I have to read into Hansard some information for the member for Launceston before we adjourn.

 

With regard to the member for Launceston's supplementary question on recruitment at the Launceston General Hospital, I have sought further advice from the Minister for Health.

 

The minister welcomes the member for Launceston's longstanding interest in building on the fantastic work of the LGH.  He shares the member's view that recruitment should be done quickly and efficiently with minimal bureaucracy.  In this regard, it is pleasing that the THS is recruiting specialist doctors and, as stated, credentialing is not a barrier for this.

 

Regarding the specifics of the supplementary question around timing of instruments of appointment, I am advised that detailed contractual arrangements in the recruitment of individual staff members and the management of necessary paperwork are day-to-day operations handled by Tasmanian Health Service management staff.

 

On the specifics of credentialing, as raised by the member for Launceston, I am advised that arrangements have been clarified at LGH and, as advised, it is no longer the case that an overseas doctor must have already worked a period of supervised practice before being credentialed.  They do, however, need to be deemed comparable or partially comparable to an Australian specialist by the relevant college and the AHPRA.

 

However, this can occur without prior supervised experience in Australia and enabling credentialing.  The specialist medical college provides a pathway to allow them to subsequently achieve the equivalent Australian fellowship while they practise in Australia.  This is not a barrier to recruitment and commencement.  THS management are aware of the need to effectively recruit staff in areas of need and the minister continues to reiterate that this is an important priority for the Government.

 

Ms Armitage - I assume the doctors who should have received their instruments of appointments last week will get them now.  They assume they will.

 

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