Seven wasted months: Visa delays costing NQ and Australia critical doctors

Nov 25, 2022

Seven wasted months: Visa delays costing NQ and Australia critical doctors

Nov 25, 2022

A FRUSTRATING lack of resources and an underwhelming effort to process visa applications is costing North Queensland and the nation critical healthcare professionals during a severe shortage.  

Kennedy MP Bob Katter is turning the heat on the federal Department of Home Affairs after a doctor looking to relocate to the Far North from Ghana, missed his Australian Medical Council exam due to a lack of progression on his visa application.  

The doctor’s application process began in April this year and his exam was in early November. Despite constant efforts from the local medical clinic and Mr Katter’s office, the applications stalled for more than six months, and the department was still yet to provide a response.  

“It is incredibly disappointing that when communities are going without adequate access to GPs, visas for skilled doctors from overseas are being denied,” Mr Katter said.  

“We have approached the Parliamentary Liaison Network on multiple occasions this year to expedite critical visas, their phone lines go to voicemail and no useful information is provided via email.  

“How can we help our constituents when we cannot get any help from the immigration department and what can we tell medical clinics who are desperately trying to meet the needs of the community?”  

Mr Katter said while most of regional Australia was struggling to employ GPs, it was difficult to accept that a bureaucratic process was denying communities from accessing basic healthcare.  

He said the average wait time for a patient to see a doctor in Kennedy was four weeks, while there were GPs putting off retirement as they were the only practitioner in town.   

“We are advised that despite clinics finding overseas professionals, who are willing to relocate permanently and practice rurally, their visas are not being processed. Our communities are suffering as a result of the reluctance of Home Affairs to process visas or offer any resolutions.”  

However, Mr Katter’s office reported it wasn’t just visa applications for skilled workers that were being stalled, but ordinary residents were also struggling with a lack of information and opportunity to successfully complete applications.  

Mr Katter’s offices in recent months have been bombarded with frustrated locals who have had applications for overseas friends and family either stall or denied with limited communication from the Department of Home Affairs.  

Among the concerns raised were that there was not enough information available on what relevant evidence an applicant needed to provide with their application, such as identity documents. Further, when applications were denied, there was limited information outlining why it had been denied, and no opportunity to make amendments or provide necessary additional documents.  

Mr Katter’s office also reported a lack of reliable human contacts at the department to answer basic application questions was frustrating locals, who were being referred to expensive, private immigration agents. Furthers issues have also arisen from agents with reports some are charging tens of thousands of dollars with no fee breakdowns or guarantees with the service they will provide.