No, it’s certainly not Dr Death, but the SMH splashes very large this morning with another Indian-trained doctor who seems to have trouble meeting Australian standards. More worryingly, “Revealed: The dark past of a guilty abortion doctor” itself only skims the surface of the ongoing national scandal.

Crikey’s angst about the occasional free lunch and desk set drug companies provide for GPs is like arguing with the neighbour about the smoke from burning a bit of rubbish in the backyard while the house is going up in flames.

The SMH – carefully politically correct as ever – concentrates on Dr Suman Sood’s documented shortcomings while only mentioning the source of her training in passing. It goes without saying that there are many good and successful doctors who have trained in India, but the rush to plug the government-induced shortage of Australian doctors has lowered standards here and killed people.

Despite Queensland’s Dr Patel scandal, failings by foreign doctors continue to be tolerated. In the past couple of weeks I’ve had conversations with a specialist, who tried and failed to get a foreign surgeon sacked, and a seriously ill friend with a series of stories ranging from medicos needing an interpreter to an foreign nurse who simply walked away from a half-completed procedure saying she couldn’t do it. I’ve also spoken to the chair of one of those Victorian regional health thingies who expressed deep dismay about the inability of foreign doctors to communicate with patients.

A doctor mate has reminded me that there’s nothing new about sub-standard care, especially in the bush. When he was a resident in the early 1980s in a hospital a couple of hours from Brisbane, he viewed his main duty of care to overnight accident victims was to stabilise them enough for transport to Brisbane before his boss turned up in the morning and wanted to operate.

But he assures me it has all become worse, as standards have been lowered to just fill slots in Health Department charts. All the state departments have the same problem, varying only in degree.

Sadly, the medical emergency is only perhaps the most obvious result of decades of educational neglect in Australia – neglect that continues across the board. As AFR economics editor Alan Mitchell fulminated yesterday in a story about Australia’s sub-par eduction performance, even the OECD is pointing the finger at us:

Education levels in Australia are lower than those of the US, New Zealand and the average of the seven largest industrialised countries.

The OECD estimates that if Australia raised the level of its human capital to the level of the US, our GDP per capita would be between 4 and 7.5 per cent higher.

We fall well below the OECD average just on attaining the upper years of secondary school – let alone tertiary studies.

Decades of bipartisan federal policy to limit the number of doctors in fear of sparking over-servicing and consequent Medicare budget blowouts now results in hospital deaths. Bipartisan failure to grasp the overall education crisis will result in a dismal economic outlook once the present resources boom has run its course.

I don’t care if doctors get a free lunch occasionally, as long as they understand what the drugs that are being promoted are for.

Peter Fray

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Our two-for-one offer with The Atlantic was so popular we decided to bring it back.

But only for 72 hours.

Use the promo code ATLANTIC2020 and you’ll get 50% off a year of Crikey (usually $199) and a year of digital access to The Atlantic (usually $70). That’s BOTH for just $129.

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Peter Fray
Editor-in-chief of Crikey

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