100 doctors locked out of Western Australia weeks before the reopening of the state | Western Australia


Around 100 doctors including specialists, consultants and remote area locums are barred from Western Australia as Mark McGowan’s government refuses G2G passes despite Covid-19 entering weeks away only.

Since the spread of the Omicron variant in late 2021, the WA government has been gradually closing entry to anyone entering from Eastern states, now making it nearly impossible for anyone to enter WA, diplomats and state officials apart.

As the Feb. 5 reopening deadline approaches, excluded doctors — who already have jobs and contracts in the state but cannot get G2G passes to enter — warn that the system of Healthcare needs ample time to prepare for the influx of Covid-19, and the state government should now grant all doctors a G2G pass urgently.

Heather* is a senior doctor who is in training to become a specialist and her application to enter WA has been refused three times in recent weeks. Her job at the hospital expects her to start work at the end of January.

“I am a specialist trainee – but there are also anesthesiologists and consultants who are rejected and that is extremely concerning,” said Heather, speaking to the Guardian on condition of anonymity.

“What I find upsetting is that these rejections are affecting the truly essential doctors – people who have to travel to community clinics or to remote areas where their skills are absolutely essential.”

With mortgage payments to make and no clear outline of when entry will be granted, Heather is now considering applying for acting roles in other states.

“The state must decide all should doctors be allowed in as a group, or should we choose the specialists we need the most – intensive care, anesthetists – and prioritize them, with the others having to wait,” Heather said.

“The reality is that every state is under severe health pressure, so this is not a realistic excuse for WA to say that vulnerable communities need special protection. I’m sorry, but there are vulnerable communities in many other parts of Australia. The main difference with vulnerable communities in WA is that there is a much greater distance between Perth and the Kimberley, for example.

According to a group chat seen by the Guardian, around 100 doctors are in a position similar to Heather. All have planned jobs or are returning to leadership positions they have held in critical and specialized areas for years.

“In one [health] already understaffed system makes perfect sense that we are all having such a hard time getting in…” wrote one doctor. “Especially with the border opening just a month away, the spirit is mind blowing.”

“Yes, staffing at a crisis point without Covid,” wrote another. “I fear a total collapse of the system when Covid arrives.”

In a statement, McGowan’s office said the Office of the Chief Health Officer received, processed and approved more than 130 entry requests from health officials in January 2022.

Mark Duncan-Smith, the WA president of the Australian Medical Association, said many doctors were starting to come in, but the process was complex.

“It’s a process issue, not exclusions,” said Duncan-Smith, who said the AMA has helped several doctors who had difficulty obtaining G2G passes, despite employment contracts and letters of support.

“They are not excluded, the problem is not in the approvals, these excluded people have problems navigating the system. Should the system be simpler? Yes.”

Western Australia Opposition Leader Mia Davies said it was ‘extremely concerning’ that doctors who want to return home to WA ‘to work in our understaffed healthcare system are not benefiting of exemptions”.

“Immediate attention must be given to allow these vital health workers to enter WA safely, as they will be essential to reinforce hospital and medical staff in WA before February 5,” she said.

“I’m sure a majority of West Australians would like to see common sense applied to safely bring these essential medical workers into the state to support us through this next stage of Covid.”

Libby Mettam, MP and Deputy Leader of the Liberal Party for WA, said any doctor struggling to come in at a time of critical health need for WA was “completely unacceptable”.

“It is completely unacceptable that health workers, including doctors, are being barred from WA when they could help our underfunded health system before the border opens in less than a month,” said Metham.

“Given the shortage of health workers in WA and the inevitable influx of Covid into the community in less than a month, the McGowan government should do everything possible to ensure that these health workers can work here, which includes exemptions for health workers.”

WA is set to open in Australia – and around the world – at midnight on February 5. The McGowan government announced the reopening date in December when the state’s double-dose vaccination rate hit 80%.

However, in parts of the Kimberley and the Pilbara, vaccination rates remain much lower, with some remote indigenous communities not yet reaching 50%.

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