US doctor asked to take English test to practise in New Zealand
A US doctor applying for registration to practise in New Zealand said he went through a month of bureaucratic “nonsense” with the Medical Council, including being asked to take a test to show he could speak and understand English.
Ramandeep Kahlon said he provided one documentation after another in a series of email wrangles that started in November, and was finally told he did not need to take the English test on Friday.
“It was so discouraging for a long time,” the psychiatry resident at the Baylor College of Medicine in Houston said, relieved. “The red-tapism was needless.”
“Would this be an issue if my name was Paul David, Benjamin Button, Jane Doe, Boris Johnson or Chris Hipkins?
“I do think it would be very different if my name wasn’t Ramandeep Kahlon,” he told the Herald.
Kahlon said he and his fiance, a practising nurse, had been planning their New Zealand stint for a year. He was contracted for a six-month exchange programme in Hawke’s Bay due to start in January, which would involve working in community and home-based psychiatry treatment teams as well as a service for pregnant women and mothers with substance abuse problems.
The 31-year-old said he had no issues getting a critical worker visa from Immigration New Zealand in September, and also managed to secure a managed isolation and quarantine or MIQ slot in October after several failed rounds.
He submitted his registration application to the Medical Council of New Zealand (MCNZ) in November, and was told he did not meet the English language requirement.
The reason given was that he had not worked at a single institution continuously for two years or more. The practice profile Kahlon sent had shown he “rotated institutions” frequently, according to an email from the Council.
Kahlon said he has been at the same Baylor College of Medicine for more than two years, and his rotations were at the different clinical locations of the same college.
“MCNZ [was saying] I have not worked at one institution for at least two years where the primary language is English. It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to figure out the primary language [in America] is English,” he told the Herald two days before his test requirement was lifted.
“What they are demanding of me is that I work at one small clinic, or one small hospital, to qualify.”
He believes this means many students who train at prestigious American institutions would be barred from practising in New Zealand.
On Friday, the Council said Kahlon’s application was reviewed in light of additional information he provided about his training and the test was no longer necessary.
“This information has satisfied Council’s English language policy, therefore he will not be required to sit an English test,” said chief executive Joan Simeon.
Kahlon had been preparing to take a three-day trip to Portland to sit the International English Language Testing System or IELTS because it was not available in Houston where he was located, and was relieved that he no longer had to do this.
He believes a similar application in the US would only take a week, and hopes MCNZ will look into the possible biases that may have clouded his application. “We don’t have to deal with nonsense like this because people actually do their jobs.”
The Council has a policy setting out different options for satisfying its English language requirement, including meeting required scores in one of two tests, the IELTs or the Medical Module of the Occupational English Test (OET).
“As part of the Medical Council’s overall responsibility to protect the health and safety of the public, we must be satisfied that any doctor seeking registration in New Zealand is able to communicate in and comprehend English,” said Simeon.
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