MORE than 2600 people, mostly health workers, were brought in on government-sponsored 457 visas last year to do jobs it was said could not be filled by Australians.
Of the 2618 government-sponsored 457 workers who arrived during the 2015-2016 financial year, 2268 were health professionals.
They included 1692 general practitioners and resident medical officers, 228 registered nurses, 35 specialists, 38 psychiatrists, 28 surgeons, 19 anaesthetists and 20 midwives.
Other visa recipients took up managerial, technical and communications jobs in a range of fields in government departments.
A Department of Immigration and Border Protection spokesman said sponsors making 457 visa applications, including other government departments, had to satisfy it that the local labour market had been tested, to ensure that Australians had had an opportunity to apply for positions.
But the Australian Medical Association said labour market testing for medical practitioners was not mandatory, and the system should be changed.
The AMA’s Victorian president, Lorraine Baker, said Australia had had a shortage of doctors a decade ago.
She questioned why large numbers of doctors were still being brought in from overseas when this was no longer so.
Australian Medical Association president Dr Lorraine Baker. Picture: Janine Eastgate
“Across Australia, there has been a 150 per cent increase in medical school places since 2004,” Dr Baker said.
“Unsurprisingly, this has led to a bottleneck pressure to train these junior doctors, to such an extent that there are now unemployed junior doctors in Victoria,” she said.
Dr Baker also said that the 457 visa scheme had not addressed the “maldistribution” of doctors.
“There is still a shortage of doctors in some rural areas, while at the same time there is high density numbers in inner-metropolitan areas,” she said.
Victoria imported 305 foreign GPs, NSW 375, and Queensland 446.
Nurses were also apparently in short supply: Victoria took in 88 registered nurses while NSW took in 34.
Victoria accepted five surgeons, 11 midwives and 26 other practitioners; NSW took in 12 surgeons, five midwives and 64 other practitioners.
Dr Baker said: “AMA Victoria has been lobbying the Victorian Government to address state-based medical workforce problems; in particular, the urgent need for medical workforce planning, which looks at both demographic areas of need and also the types of doctors and specialities needed.”