Sat, Jan 07, 2006 - Page 5 News List

Tough new checks result in a shortage of doctors

AP , SYDNEY

A shortage of doctors in Australia's northeastern state of Queensland has been blamed on tough new checks introduced after a scandal over a foreign surgeon linked to the deaths of 13 patients, health officials said yesterday.

An inquiry into rogue surgeon Jayant Patel snowballed last year to reveal widespread failings in the public health system in Queensland and forced several high-ranking officials to resign.

The inquiry found that 13 of Patel's patients died as a result of his treatment during his two-year tenure at the Bundaberg hospital.

Patel, who was born in India and trained there and in the US, did not reveal past malpractice cases when he applied in 2003 to work in Bundaberg.

The Queensland Medical Board has since toughened its registration process, causing a delay in licensing doctors to practice in the state.

The board has introduced an international screening process which requires doctors to provide independent verification of past credentials and experience, particularly if they are from overseas.

"We're doing that to ensure that Queensland has doctors that are properly trained and competent," a spokesman for the state's health minister said.

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