Australia’s plan to bring in overseas doctors and nurses raises the inevitable ethical questions

The AGE reports: Australia will allow 2000 overseas nurses and doctors to enter the country for work under a plan being finalised by the Commonwealth and states to ease a healthcare staffing crisis.

Our papers are full of stories of the overcrowding of hospitals, ICUs and the ramping of ambulances as result of the pandemic. The stress on frontline medical staff is becoming an increasing concern and lockdown of major elements of hospitals with their categorisation as Tier 1 infection sites further limits the ability of the health system to respond.

It is anticipated that the situation will get far worse once New South Wales and Victoria open up their economies.

The arrival of 2000 doctors and nurses will go some way to easing the staffing shortage, although it is difficult to know the extent to which this number is going to make a significant difference.

The article goes on to say “The International College of Nurses estimates there is a global shortage of 5.9 million nurses, 39,000 vacant nursing jobs in England ( and) more than 12,200 vacant nursing positions in Australia.”

These “medical migrants” will need to be recruited from countries where qualifications are recognised by Australia so that they will be able to begin work as soon as their feet touch the ground. Apparently, they will be able to sidestep travel restrictions a privilege not granted to test cricketers.

Regardless of the number, Australia’s recruiting these highly skilled individuals will only exacerbate the problem in the countries where they are recruited.

There is always an ethical issue when one country recruits highly trained staff, particular medical staff, from another countries by offering them some form inducements, normally financial. This ethical issue is more focused during the time of crisis such as a pandemic.

Most Australians, particularly those who will likely need highly specialised hospitalisations, will be glad of the extra help and expertise provided by the medical migrants.

However, this will come at a cost for the help and expertise not been provided somewhere else.

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