Programmes underway to naturalise foreign-trained doctors

Sun, Mar 19

Pilot programmes are now underway in Auckland and Hamilton to familiarise doctors with the practices of New Zealand's hospitals and GP clinics.

They come as the country experiences critical staffing shortages in the health workforce. The latest Te Whatu Ora data shows hospitals are short of more than 600 senior doctors and 2500 nurses.

The real figures are likely to be higher, with data not available from Canterbury, West Coast, Bay of Plenty and Tairāwhiti.

GPs also remain stretched, with some not able to accept new patients and many considering early retirement.

Doctors trained overseas have the requisite medical knowledge but may not have experience working in New Zealand, where practice and procedures often vary from the countries they've trained in.

Two new programmes, including one in Auckland, aim to address this discrepancy and help more foreign-trained doctors practice in New Zealand.

"The point of the medical programme we're running is to take qualified doctors and make their knowledge kiwi," Waitematā DHB clinical training director Laura Chapman said.

Cultural understanding is part of a six-week block in the classroom — followed by four months in a hospital, where they learn everything from how the system works to the types of drugs prescribed.

Another programme is underway in Waikato Hospital, helping migrant doctors get the training they need to work independently in New Zealand.

The new scheme combines two years of hospital and community experience — which officials accept as sufficient training.

One participant Carlos Confort Campos trained and worked in Brazil, and offered long-distance telemedicine to his homeland, while being unable to work in New Zealand.

"We knew there was a lot of need for people like us and we were there and we were available but couldn't do it so it was a bit frustrating," Campos said.

General Practice NZ said safe new pathways for overseas doctors to work here are essential if Te Whatu Ora and the Government are serious about fixing the critical workforce shortages in the health sector.


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