HIMAA calls out government double standard on skilled migration

The Health Information Management Association of Australia (HIMAA) has called on the federal government to end what it says is a double standard in accepting migrants with lesser qualifications to fill shortages in the health information workforce.

The move comes as yet another tertiary-level course appears to have been cancelled, with Curtin University understood to have axed its online Bachelor of Science (Health Information Management) without informing current students.

HIMAA has criticised the government for accepting skilled migrants with less rigorous qualifications than local graduates in health information management (HIM) and clinical coding if they receive a positive assessment from a government-authorised assessor.

HIMAA says the practice is a double standard and is leading to role substitution by unaware employers.

Announcing the release of a new national skilled migration policy, HIMAA president Jenny Gilder said the organisation was not opposed to skilled migration as government policy or to address workforce shortages in appropriate circumstances.

However, she said the skills assessments being applied to some migrants with qualifications that do not meet HIMAA's entry level competency standards is a “travesty”.

“These are the only industry standards we have in this country,” she said.

“At a time when key occupations in the health information management profession are facing chronic workforce shortage, it seems irresponsible of the Australian government to be auspicing skilled migration into these occupations by applicants who don’t have even relevant qualifications, let alone qualifications accredited to Australian workforce standards.

“For the Australian government to be actively fostering role substitution in the HIM profession when maintenance of existing professional standards is essential, enhancement through workforce capability development preferable, is more than counterintuitive.

“It is reprehensible, and the practice should cease.”

The release of the policy comes as rumours abound that Curtin has cut its online bachelor-level HIM course, which is the only one available to students in Western Australia, South Australia, the Northern Territory and the ACT wanting to pursue the occupation.

A notice appeared on Curtin's website on Wednesday saying the course would no longer be offered after June this year, but yesterday the URL was showing “page not found”. Pulse+IT has requested an explanation from the university but it did not respond before deadline.

Ms Gilder told Pulse+IT that the organisation understood that as of June 1, there will be no HIM-qualified academics on permanent staff at Curtin to deliver this course.

“This places HIMAA accreditation of the course at risk,” Ms Gilder said. “HIMAA’s concern is for the future of the students currently enrolled in this course around Australia, who dream of a career in a profession that is at the heart of health care."

On skilled migration, Ms Gilder said the preferred position in HIMAA’s new policy is that its competency standards, both for university-level HIM graduates and VET-level clinical coders, should be adopted by the government as the benchmark for skilled migrants in the two occupational categories.

Australasian College of Health Informatics (ACHI) president Klaus Veil said the college supports the HIMAA policy.

Posted in Australian eHealth


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