Two overseas-trained doctors have been prevented from taking positions at Campbelltown and Liverpool hospitals because the immigration department will not issue their same-sex partners with a family visa.
Frustrated health officials and the Australian Democrats have appealed to the Minister for Immigration, Amanda Vanstone, saying the decision exacerbated the chronic shortage of psychiatrists in public hospitals.
Both jobs were classed as 'area of need' positions as there were not enough doctors willing or able to fill them.
'Given this situation ... discriminatory barriers, such as the non-recognition of same-gender relationships as de facto relationships for the purpose of granting a visa are inappropriate,' a NSW health official said in a letter to the department.
The clinical director of Liverpool Hospital's mental health unit, Roger Gurr, said it was a major blow for south-western Sydney to lose both overseas-trained psychiatrists.
'Now the situation is drastic ... NSW needs 41 trainee psychiatrists to enter the system every year to provide the services - last year only 22 people were accepted into training. This year there was only 19. So there is an enormous backlog of vacancies.'
Len Holt, the national president of the Migration Institute of Australia, said that unlike married or de facto heterosexual couples who were granted a four-year residency visa as a family, only the doctor being offered an area-of-need position was granted a long-term visa. Their same-sex partner could apply for a 12-month visitor's visa that must be renewed overseas and did not allow them to work while in Australia.
'The same-sex partners do not meet the definition of spouse, which in this day and age doesn't make a whole lot of sense,' Mr Holt said.
Really doesn't merit much of a comment, does it? Perhaps the minister was frightened by a pink shrink as a small child?