Junior doctor denied Medical Council registration in New Zealand calls for change

7:06 pm on 25 October 2022
Junior doctor Mourin Das says she may return to Australia to work as a doctor after failing to gain her registration from the Medical Council of New Zealand.

Mourin Das said she may return to Australia to work as a doctor after failing to gain her registration from the Medical Council of New Zealand. Photo: Stuff / Stephen Forbes via LDR

Junior doctor Mourin Das says after spending two years working in the UK and Australia as a registered doctor she thought getting her approval to practice in New Zealand would be a straightforward affair.

Das and her husband recently bought a house in Papakura and were planning to settle in Auckland.

But the Medical Council of New Zealand (MCNZ) said she did not meet the necessary criteria needed to work in her chosen field.

The junior doctor originally did her medical training in her native Bangladesh, before spending 12 months working as a doctor in the UK's NHS, where she was registered, and another year in Australia.

Das said she had mainly worked as an emergency department senior house officer.

"I've had a number of medical job offers in New Zealand, but when I tried to register with the Medical Council it said my experience wasn't comparable," she said.

Das was told by the council last month after it rejected her application that she would need to have at least 33 months' clinical experience in a similar position to be able to practise in Aotearoa.

"But if I can practise in the UK and Australia, why can't I practise in New Zealand? They are two comparable health systems and I would have thought two years of clinical experience would be enough?"

She said seeing the current crisis in emergency departments, including Middlemore Hospital, as a result of chronic staffing shortages, she could not understand why the MCNZ was making it so hard for people to get their registration.

"I have colleagues who have faced similar barriers to practising in New Zealand and they are now working in the UK," Das said.

In a statement, the Medical Council of New Zealand chief executive Joan Simeon said its primary purpose was public safety and to ensure any doctors that did gain registration met its standards.

The comparable health system pathway for registration, which Das applied under, did not require the sitting and passing of an examination to gain registration, she said.

But Simeon said under the scheme the applicant must have practised clinically for at least 33 months, for at least 20 hours per week, during the 48 months prior to application in one or more comparable health systems.

The applicant also had to have practised in the same area of medicine during the specified timeframe. Das failed to meet the criteria.

"We continue to review our pathways to registration for international medical graduates to ensure that they remain fit for purpose, while ensuring doctors are competent to practise."

But National Party health spokesman Dr Shane Reti said the Medical Council of New Zealand needed to make it easier for people like Das to work here, considering the existing workforce shortages we have in the health system.

"I would expect the MCNZ to bring some common sense to the situation. And I would like the health system crisis to be taken into account by the regulatory authority when it makes these sorts of decisions," he said.

"She worked in two health systems we recognise. So why can't we find a place for her here?"

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