With a slight delay, the Visas for GPs Initiative has come into effect on 11 March 2019.
Trying to avoid an alleged oversupply of 7,000 medical practitioners by 2030, the Department of Health has introduced new measures to manage the growth of overseas trained doctors (OTDs) entering the country. The government states that the alleged oversupply mainly affects well serviced major capital cities and metropolitan areas, rather than rural and remote areas where GPs are in greater need.
The initiative aims at reducing the overall number of OTDs entering the country via the skilled migration program as well as mending the shortage of health professionals in rural and remote areas. It is expected that the initiative will reduce the number of OTDs working in Australia by 200 per year over a period of four years, although we believe this program will reduce the number by much more.
From 11 March 2019, employers which intend to hire an OTD with visa requirements, are obliged to lodge an application for a Health Workforce Certificate with Rural Workforce Agencies (RWA) in order to nominate a position for the following occupations:
- General Practitioner (ANZSCO 253111);
- Resident Medical Officer (ANZSCO 253112); and
- Medical Practitioners not elsewhere classified (ANZSCO 253999).
A Health Workforce Certificate will be required for OTDs who apply for the following visas:
- Employer Nomination Scheme (subclass 186) visa;
- Regional Sponsored Migration Scheme (subclass 187) visa; and
- Temporary Skill Shortage (subclass 482) visa.
Assessment criteria for applications
The main criteria for RWAs assessing applications will be the geographic location in which the practice is located and whether it’s identified as an area with a medical skills shortage.
New assessment tool
The Department of Health has announced that it will launch a new data planning tool that will be used by RWAs to identify areas with a need for medical practitioners and to assess Health Workforce Certificate applications.
At this stage it seems the general public will not have access to this tool, and it is not completely clear if it is in operation yet.
What’s also unclear is whether the DWS model and the Modifed Monash Model will be abolished and replaced with the new tool.
Processing times for applications
Health Workforce Certificate applications are processed within 5 to 10 business days. However, applications for positions located in rural, remote and regional areas of Australia (as defined by the Modified Monash Model eg MMM categories 3-7) will be expedited and processed within two business days.
In order to find out whether a particular practice location falls under MM categories 3-7, this Map tool from DoctorConnect can be used.
While it has become harder to employ OTDs in metro locations, practices that already have OTDs employed might see improved long-term loyalty from doctors who are on temporary visas because applying for a new job means that a Health Workforce Certificate application has to be lodged. Essentially, OTDs who don’t hold permanent residency yet, take a significant risk should they want to change practice. For more considerations for individual GPs, read this article.
We have lodged a few Workforce Certificate applications on 11 March 2019 in order to test the water. We’re hoping to get an idea on what areas will be approved. We encourage you to lodge applications for your practices and to talk to your local rural health workforce agency to understand more about this new program.
Even if the government introduces measures with a broad brush right now, we are sure that they eventually have to classify many metro locations as areas of need again.
We will follow the development closely as usual and give you an update as soon as new information becomes available.
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