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Published Date: 21-10-2008
Exam centres to open in India to help recruit doctors
AUSTRALIA is opening five exam centres in India to streamline the recruitment of overseas-trained doctors, after the overturning of a policy that protected the booming nation from having its medical graduates poached by rich countries.

The five centres -- in Bangalore, Chennai, Hyderabad, Mumbai and New Delhi -- will allow Indian doctors who have applied to migrate to Australia to sit a multiple-choice exam to test their medical knowledge before they leave.

India is already the biggest single source of international medical graduates relocating to Australia, which is battling a doctor shortage.

The first exams will be held at the five high-security centres from November 17-19.

Under the MedicarePlus reforms introduced in 2003, the federal government pledged not to actively recruit doctors in developing countries, a practice that has been condemned on the basis that it strips highly qualified professionals from the nations that can least afford to lose them.

The Australian Medical Council, which has contracted a US company to provide the testing facilities, said it had received notification from the Rudd Government earlier this year that India was no longer on the banned list.

AMC chief executive Ian Frank said the move would not necessarily lead to more doctors from India being recruited to Australia, as many Indian candidates would previously have travelled to sit the exam in testing centres that have been set up since 2006 in other overseas sites, such as Singapore, Hong Kong, Dubai and London.

"There has been a very careful review of the situation in India, and we have been given instruction that they are no longer part of these sensitive areas," Mr Frank said.

"We are permitted to go back in there now. We don't think it's going to make a significant difference to the number recruited, it will just make it a bit easier for the candidates."

The move should help to ensure higher medical standards, by reducing the number of doctors arriving in Australia without any formal assessment of their skills. Mr Frank said that under policies agreed by the Council of Australian Governments that came into effect on July 1, doctors who might previously have been approved for area-of-need positions were now supposed to sit the AMC's multiple-choice test.

Lesleyanne Hawthorne, associate dean international in Melbourne University's faculty of medicine, who analysed the most recent census data for information about overseas medical graduates, said that of the 7596 medical arrivals in Australia between 2001-06, 1378 were from India.

- Adam Cresswell, The Australian

Posted By:Suman Rai

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