Securing Positions for Refugee Doctors

30/Dec/2019     Health

Mater is working together with the Refugee Health Network Queensland helping overseas trained doctors who arrive in Australia as refugees find a pathway to practice again in their medical field.

International Medical Graduates (IMG) are required to meet stringent standards to re-enter the medical profession which are often difficult to navigate due to the complex rules governing medical practitioners.

Director Mater Refugee Health Service Donata Sackey explained that for IMGs from refugee backgrounds the processes and systems put in place are even more challenging because of the extenuating circumstances of the refugee journey.

“English-speaking doctors from the United Kingdom, Canada and New Zealand can find the process challenging, this is amplified for refugees,” she said.

“Before they can register and apply for a job they need to pass their English test and a rigorous medical examination process which has a pass rate of fewer than 50 per cent for the theory test and around five per cent for the clinical test. Each of these tests can cost up to $3000 each.”

Donata also explained that once doctors have passed their examinations employers and registration bodies require them to meet other criterion which includes Australian work experience and having recency of practice.

For a refugee fleeing their countries there is little opportunity to collect important documents and it is impossible to return to their home countries to meet recency of practice requirements.

Mater has recognised there is an unmet need in the community to help these doctors find and secure pathways to employment through not only observerships but mentoring and training.

“We have taken on two refugee doctors here at Mater who completed observerships but in addition to this we have provided them mentorship with the goal of helping them secure hospital positions in the future,” Donata said.   

Dr Manal Aqrawe is an anaesthesiologist with 20 years’ experience in her home country of Iraq however when the city of Mosul fell into the hands of ISIS she had to flee.

“I had such a difficult time getting any hospital position due to lack of local experience until I received an observership position at Mater,” Dr Aqrawe said.

“I felt very supported at Mater, it was a wonderful experience and they even helped me by holding mock interviews in preparation for the real thing.”

Dr John De La Croix Butoyi from Burundi completed the observership and found it to be a very positive experience.

“I had completed an observership with another organisation and I felt very isolated like I wasn’t learning anything,” he said.

“Here at Mater I felt like I was part of the team, the staff were very welcoming and supportive. I was able to ask questions and really observe their practices.”

Both doctors spent time in Mater Emergency Department, Infectious Diseases and Anaesthesia Departments as well as participating in education sessions and observing GPs in the Mater Refugee Complex Care Clinic. 

The Refugee Health Network Qld will continue to advocate and work with Queensland Health to formalise a sustainable pathway so that Queensland doesn’t miss out on these highly skilled and motivated doctors. 

After completing their observerships both Dr Aqrawe and Dr Butoyi have been offered positions at Redcliffe Hospital, something they both say would previously have been inconceivable and they credit the support Mater provided for their success.

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