Mr ENTSCH (Leichhardt) (6.55 pm)-I welcome the opportunity for governance of this area to come under the jurisdiction of the federal parliament as of 1 July, because I think what we need to do here is send a strong message out to the Australian medical colleges that, with the gift of monopoly-which is what they have-come serious obligations in relation to the way in which they treat foreign trained doctors. Regional Australia could not function without the services of these foreign doctors. Let me tell you, Madam Deputy Speaker, that these colleges are nothing but old boys clubs. They have been established by those who get major benefits from the current situation.
They do not like any competition whatsoever. If another doctor comes in and does not play the game, they will attack them relentlessly and they will remove their opportunity or their licence to practise. I have such a situation in Cairns. Dr Roger Chatoor was recruited from the United Kingdom. He was recognised as one of the best cardiologists in the United Kingdom. He came over here, recruited to an area where there has never been an intervention cardiologist. He came over with glowing reports from those that recruited him of over 9,000 successful procedures. In Cairns, over a period of 12 months, he did 1,600 procedures. In those 1,600 procedures, he had operated in 500, and of those 500 there were 230 that could not be done in our region before he came. The mistake he made was that he was successful and he was not prepared to play the game.
There are four senior cardiologists in Cairns who have been involved in, first of all, collusion and, secondly, dishonest conduct. They are not interested in the wellbeing of Cairns or the far northern region. They are acting only in their own self-interest in relation to their income. Because Dr Chatoor was not prepared to play the game, they have been ringing around nursing staff and other cohorts in other hospitals. They have been involved in influencing the chair of the assessment committee at the royal college to make sure that this fine cardiologist is kicked out of the country.
It is absolutely appalling. I have over 5½ thousand signatures from people in support of Dr Chatoor. But what has happened now is that, because those cardiologists have influenced this decision, through deception and collusion, Dr Chatoor’s 457 visa is now under threat of being rescinded. He is a man of impeccable qualifications. For the last four or five months, he has been fighting this, and the community has been fighting to keep him. What they have argued all the way through is that this is a peer review issue. But understand that his supervisor, who had given him above-average assessments all the way through, subsequently relocated 500 metres down the road and, because Roger did not go with him, he had a whinge and suggested that there was a supervision issue.
For months now, we have been trying to deal with that. They changed the rules that allowed him to practise. They came back and said, ‘Well, if you get into the public health system, we’ll allow you to stay.’ He was happy to do that. Unfortunately, Queensland Health said: ‘No, we don’t have any space for somebody like Dr Chatoor.
We don’t need another cardiologist in Far North Queensland.’ In the meantime, the hospital cardiologist has been filling in at the private practice where Roger was working-and they are asking him for an opinion. It is absolutely appalling, and I call on the Australian Medical Council to start setting accreditation standards
and to give 12 months for these colleges to start to sort out their nonsense, to sort out this mafia that they are involved in and to improve conditions, transparency and accountability. I also believe it is about time that we had a full Senate inquiry to investigate this. I have absolutely no doubt that we need competent people here, but we have foreign doctors training in this country who have no voice and no opportunity to defend themselves or their reputations.
When they are being destroyed by greedy individuals like these four in my region, I think that those four people need to be held accountable. I have all of the evidence showing what these people have been doing and I will certainly be looking to have a full inquiry. We need to have them under oath and they need to be held accountable for what they are doing to this wonderful man and his family.
Mr KATTER (Kennedy) (7.01 pm)-In strongly endorsing the words of the member for Leichhardt, I note that we had a situation in Townsville where there were only three surgeons who were able to do heart surgery. I can speak from personal experience on this because I have been rushed to Townsville for emergency surgery. The previous member for the electorate of Herbert also had to have emergency surgery in Townsville, and the state minister and Speaker of the Assembly, also from Townsville, had to have emergency surgery there too.
So it is very common. Due to exactly the same sorts of things that the member for Leichhardt was referring to-petty, vicious, personal vendettas; that is the only word that I can use to describe them-we were left with one single doctor practising. He happened to be the doctor that operated on me, and we checked him out. I am related to a family with a hundred doctors in it, and we checked this bloke out. His name is Mo Diqer, and he is one of the better, arguably one of the best, heart surgeons in the country.
His figures in each of the categories are exceptionally high. His survival rates are very, very high indeed, arguably higher than those of anyone except four others in the entire country. But he was under venomous and vicious attack-exactly the same type as Chatoor was under in Cairns-just through the petty prejudices of people who do not have to live there and whose lives are not at risk from us being bereft of specialist care.
The last set of figures I looked at was for the Edmonton area. In the cities of Australia we have one doctor per 300 people. In the country as a whole we have one doctor per 600 people. We have one doctor per 2,000 people in the southern end of Cairns.
Honourable member interjecting-
Mr KATTER-I accept the interjection: I am not Robinson Crusoe. But it is infinitely worse for us in North Queensland. All right, the cavalry is on the way a bit for North Queensland, with the JCU medical school, but we are looking at another 12 years before we have specialists coming out from that school. I must comment upon the fact that the minister has no representatives here. It is an insult to every single person
on both sides of the House.
Honourable members interjecting-
Mr KATTER-Do not be holier than thou, you blokes; I am very bipartisan in my comments here. But when there is a matter of such importance, when the member for Leichhardt speaks with such passion-as well he should-and the member for Maranoa and the member for Kennedy are up here and extremely angry, what is the use, when there is not a single representative of the minister here? That is absolutely disgraceful. In the state parliament we always had the head of the department and the minister. If it was a matter that concerned them, the minister had to be there and so did the head of the department. They had to face the music. But they are hiding out in ivory towers and in cowards’ castles. They are not game to face the music that is being played down here today.
It is our people from North Queensland who are going to be in serious trouble and who are going to die, and for the people from Western Queensland I would assume it will be the same.
Mr Bruce Scott interjecting-
Mr KATTER-I do not have to tell the honourable member for Maranoa these things. There comes a time when we really have to stand these people up, and the time has come for them to be stood up. The minister must take responsibility for what is taking place here. The Chatoor example is an absolute disgrace and a reflection not only upon the state government but also upon the federal government. It remains a reflection upon them, and if they want people in the streets in anger and with venom and spite then they should just allow the Chatoor thing to continue on-and all of the other issues that we have had over the years. Mr Deputy Speaker, we have put our point to the House, and we would appreciate it if you would put it to the Speaker that ministers should be represented.