Background Checking

Health watchdog to check criminal histories of foreign doctors, medicos working in Australia

 

Source: The Herald Sun – www.heraldsun.com.au

Australia’s health watchdog is cracking down on ­foreign doctors and medical workers with criminal records.

Concerned that overseas criminals could exploit loopholes and a lack of checks in Australia’s medical registration system, the Australian Health Practitioner Regulation Agency will demand practitioners prove that they have not committed serious crimes in other countries.

Presently, practitioners coming to work in Australia are trusted to simply tick a box on their registration indicating they do not have a criminal ­record, but the authority lacks the power or resources to ­determine if they are telling the truth.

From February, any medicos seeking registration to work in Australia will need to pay for an international criminal background check by an approved company, with the results provided directly to AHPRA.

Any Australian health workers who have spent six months or more living overseas will also have to undertake international criminal history checks to register with Australia’s medical boards.

But AHPRA chief executive officer Martin Fletcher said the checks would not be enforced on overseas-trained doctors ­already working in Australia.

Mr Fletcher said there was no evidence of current practitioners having undeclared criminal histories, but the strengthened measures would balance the need to better protect the public without delaying appointments of new practitioners.

“We are strengthening the safeguards around criminal history and making sure we can provide greater assurance to the public that healthcare practitioners coming to Australia don’t have a criminal history that may raise issues,” he said.

“It is clearly quite challenging in some countries. We will be working with specialist providers for these checking services, and they have established processes to check criminal histories in many countries around the world.

“Obviously, there are issues in relation to particular countries in terms of getting information and questions about the wider context of that country — and they would all be taken into account on a case-by-case basis.”

Australian-trained practitioners must undergo criminal record checks in each state of Australia through the CrimTrac Agency before they can be registered to treat patients, and Mr Fletcher said the same level of assurance would now be expected of foreign health workers.

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