Doctors who train overseas struggle with placement

KARINA ABADIA
Last updated 16:41 14/04/2014
Dr Morella Lascurain
Karina Abadia
FED UP: Dr Morella Lascurain says a hospital job matching system which gives priority to New Zealand-trained doctors is unfair.

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New Zealand citizens and residents who have trained as doctors overseas say they can't find employment because they are being discriminated against.

It's hard for these doctors to get the in-house training needed for registration because preference is given to graduates from New Zealand and Australian medical schools, regardless of whether they are citizens of these countries.

The Auckland Regional Migrant Services Charitable Trust laid a complaint with the Human Rights Commission on behalf of these doctors on March 20.

There are at least 41 doctors still waiting for a job placement after having passed the exam between 2011 and 2013. Many have held senior positions in their countries and speak various languages.

Dr Morella Lascurain, 45, came to New Zealand in 2000 and sat the equivalence exam last year. She worked as a doctor in her home country of Venezuela for four years and is the managing director of Mt Eden private health centre Mother-Well Holistic Health.

She would like to practice general medicine alongside other alternative health care methods but she can't find a placement.

Treating her and other doctors in her position differently was unfair, Lascurain said.

''What's happening in a nutshell is we are not allowed access to that one year that would allow us to register. That's discrimination. The reality is we're not foreign anymore. I'm as much a New Zealander as anyone else.''

Those who graduate outside of Australia, North America and Western Europe are required by the NZ Medical Council to pass the New Zealand clinical exam (NZREX).

The next step is to gain a hospital placement and work under supervision for a minimum of a year.

This is also a requirement for local graduates.

Dr Joel Vedamony, 28, is another doctor who is unable to gain registration. He moved here from India after graduating in Nepal in 2011.

He passed the practical exams in June last year but has been working in a medical laboratory contact centre because he can't find a graduate position.

When he applied to the job matching system he was told he was ineligible because he had studied overseas.

Like Lascurain, he had to contact all 20 District Health Boards himself to see if there were any vacancies after all the New Zealand and Australian doctors had been placed.

He did and there were none.

''It's quite frustrating. I have a certain skill set which is beneficial but I'm not able to use it in New Zealand.''

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But he still counts himself lucky.

''I know a lot of other doctors who are in the same situation who are sitting at home because they can't find a job. There is a need for certain types of doctors and there are people who can fill those positions if we are able to get over the hurdle of the first year.''

The Medical Council has reduced the number of NZREX exams it offers from five to three this year. This decision was made mainly because of the limited availability of intern positions, chairman Andrew Connolly said.

But that wouldn't help those already waiting for a placement, Lascurain said.

''If an extra 40 or so jobs were created for us to be able to register they would be solving the problem because after the first year many of those doctors would go into areas of medicine that the country needs,'' she said.

Health Workforce New Zealand executive chair Des Gorman was unavailable for comment.

- (Live Matches)

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