Service looks abroad for badly-needed oncologist
THE Northern Rivers' next cancer specialist may come from overseas; with the health service confirming on Friday it wanted to use the controversial 457 visa system to recruit a second oncologist. A spokesman for the Area Health Service said the region had been trying to recruit a second oncologist for Lismore for some time and was now turning to the 457 visa to attract an overseas candidate. The 457 visa system has been heavily criticised in recent years, thanks to the scandal in Queensland over 457 surgeon Jayant Patel, nicknamed 'Dr Death'. He fled to the United States after a series of patient deaths were attributed to him. More recently the visa system has been attacked over claims people working under the visas were being mistreated by employers who had the power to threaten deportation if they complained. A Federal inquiry into 457 visas this week recommended a major overhaul of protections for workers. However, even then it was unlikely the region's existing oncologist Dr Adam Boyce, who colleagues warn is dangerously overworked, would get help any time soon. The spokesman said employing someone under a 457 visa was complicated. The region had to be classified by State and Federal Governments as an 'area of need'; and the relevant professional body had to approve the move. The Immigration Minister could then give approval to advertise the post. "The main logistical concern is you have to interest someone in the position in the first instance and convince them that moving from, say, London is nice and to consider living in a rural area," he said. Because the people being recruited were generally already working, even once they were recruited there could still be a wait of several months. "If your option is to not find someone, or find someone who's terrific, but you have to wait three months, then it's probably better to go for the bird in the hand," he said.