There has been a 90 per cent decline in overseas doctors seeking employment in Australia since the bungled case of Indian doctor Mohamed Haneef, according to the Overseas and Australian Medical Graduates Association (OAMGA) and the United Indian Association (UIA).
In a joint statement released on Sunday, OAMGA and UIA said the massive drop in the number of doctors seeking temporary work visas to Australia was further compounding the existing health crisis.
OAMGA president Dr V Nagamma, who migrated to Australia in 1979 from Bangalore said, "This spells disaster for an already over stretched and under-resourced medical work force, particularly for rural and regional areas where many of these doctors are posted."
Medical practitioners are much in demand in Australia, especially in remote towns. According to the Australian Bureau of Statistics, the proportion of doctors who were born overseas was highest in remote areas (56 per cent) and very remote areas (51 per cent).
Forty per cent of all doctors in Australia were overseas trained and a large proportion of these doctors hail from the Indian subcontinent.
Almost 15 per cent of overseas trained doctors in Australia are Indians.
In the various interviews given by the presidents of UIA and OAMGA to both national and international media, they predicted that overseas doctors planning to arrive in Australia would reconsider their decision since the Haneef saga and they have been proven correct.
Nagamma said there was "growing anger amongst Australians of Indian origin over the John Howard Government's handling of the Haneef's case as it had brought discredit to the Indian Community here in Australia."
With fresh emails between Australian Federal Police (AFP) and an adviser to Immigration Minister Kevin Andrews revealing that there was a "secret plan" in place to keep Haneef behind bars, UIA president Raj Natarajan, an electronics engineer who migrated with his family from Bangalore in 1988, said, "There is a growing body of evidence that Dr Haneef was used as a political pawn."
The 27-year-old former Gold Coast registrar was incarcerated for three weeks after being charged with supporting a terrorist organisation by "recklessly" giving his mobile phone SIM card to people planning the London and Glasgow bombings.
The charges were later dropped and he returned to his family in Bangalore after Immigration Minister Kevin Andrews cancelled his 457 work visa. Haneef's legal team has appealed against the decision and the case will come up for hearing in the coming weeks.
"UIA and OAMGA strongly urge the federal government, and the immigration minister, to restore credibility to recruitment process of overseas trained doctors, in order to avoid the looming crisis in the health delivery system," the statement said.
There are estimated to be 5000 overseas trained doctors working under supervision and under the 457 temporary visa scheme. In the past 12 months, 1200 doctors have been given visas under the scheme and Queensland province is understood to be its biggest user.