More overseas-trained doctors are being used to fill the gaps in the health system, in an effort to sustain Australia's doctor-to-population ratio, in which the federal government fast-tracking Medicare provider numbers to 4831 new residents last year.
Following the announcement by Rudd government on new GP and specialist training places, data on the extent of shortage country-wide was requested by The Australian, and found that the federal government was still struggling to get doctors to where they are needed.
GP clinics are routinely making deals with the commonwealth to meet the community demand for doctors and are allowed to employ temporary resident overseas-trained doctors with an agreement that they will work in a particular area of need for 10 years.
The overseas-trained doctors would never have access to Medicare - without the government exception from section 19AB of the Health Insurance Act 1973, made during a time when Australia had an oversupply of doctors.
As compared to four years earlier on October 31, the number of exemptions had increased from 2718 to 4318 for the last year. At that time, the percentage and land area with shortage of doctors remained steady, showing some signs of improvement.
The Prime Minister said 59 per cent of Australians were affected by doctor shortages, when he made the announcement about the training places.
However, the figure was used from the first quarter of 2007, before Labor came to power. The latest figure taken from the September quarter last year was 55 per cent with some natural fluctuation.
Australia will remain over-reliant on overseas-trained doctors for a long time.