Is there a doctor in the town?

Yes, but she’s not allowed to work

• Ready to work: Dr Jenny Schram with Foster and Toora Medical Centre’s principal Dr Phil Worboys.

AN English GP cannot practice medicine in Foster because of a failure by authorities to grant her the necessary work rights. 

Despite the delay, the Royal Australian College of General Practitioners has refused to say if or when Dr Jenny Schram will be allowed to practice in Australia. 

The medico, who has worked in Australia before and has qualifications from the esteemed Cambridge University in the UK, has flown to Australia to be a GP at Foster and Toora Medical Centres’ two clinics, South Gippsland Hospital and as a clinical supervisor for registrars and medical students.  

“Their (RACGP’s) powers of communication are abysmal, frankly,” an irate Dr Schram said. 

While processing of Dr Schram’s approval to work in the country was supposed to take up to 10 weeks, it was already at 12-and-a-half weeks when the paper spoke to her last week. But what was most galling was the failure of RACGP to say what was causing the delay or if and when the process would be completed. In the meantime, Dr Schram has been forced to wait. The delay may even force her to leave the country and fly back again, so as not to get on the wrong side of Visa authorities. 

Dr Schram said the process for applying to practice medicine was a long and difficult process, with countless forms to fill out and approvals to meet. The RACGP’s tick is the last requirement.

She completed that bit of paperwork on November 16 and found out in January “they haven’t even decided under which scheme they’ll assess you and haven’t started to assess you, and haven’t taken up references yet from people in the UK”. 

 She described the realisation as “disappointing”. 

 “I moved at nine weeks, with the presumption it would come through a week after I arrived,” she said. 

 Dr Schram now believes the process could take considerably longer. 

 “That means to that I can’t consolidate my Visa application because I’m presently here on a 12-week business visitor Visa,” she said. 

 “In the meantime, I might have to take a trip to New Zealand because I’ll get to the end of my 12 weeks. I’ll go for the weekend and come back.

 “I’ve been fairly patient, but part of the point is the clinic wouldn’t be recruiting me all the way from the UK if they didn’t want me to actually do some work. There are people hanging on doing extra sessions and extra on-calls because they’re waiting for me.” 

 She is not the only one who is incensed by the ordeal. Clinic practice manager Heather Byrne is furious. 

 She believes the RACGP is applying a one-size-fits-all model to assessing overseas doctors. 

 “There’s no nuance in the system to allow for someone of Jenny’s calibre,” she said. 

 “It’s risk analysis to the point of paralysis. They’re going through all these risk checks, for someone we know is going to be fine.” 

 But, again, the frustration has come mainly from not being able to talk to anyone at RACGP. A request to talk to the CEO was flatly refused. The RACGP would not answer questions from The Mirroreither.