Risks of complaints and adverse disciplinary findings against international medical graduates in Victoria and Western Australia

Med J Aust. 2012 Oct 15;197(8):448-52. doi: 10.5694/mja12.10632.


Objective: To determine whether international medical graduates (IMGs) have more complaints made against them to medical boards and experience more adverse disciplinary findings than Australian-trained doctors.

Design and setting: Data on all complaints made against doctors to medical boards in VICtoria and Western Australia over 7.5 years and 5.25 years, respectively, were extracted and linked with information on all doctors registered in those states over the same time periods. The data pertained to complaints resolved before February 2010 in Western Australia and June 2010 in VICtoria, the dates of the respective extractions. We tested for associations between IMG status and the incidence of complaints using multivariable logistic regression.

Main outcome measures: Incidences of complaints and adverse disciplinary findings.

Results: Among 39 155 doctors registered in VICtoria and Western Australia in the study period, 5323 complaints were made against 3191 doctors. Thirty-seven per cent of registered doctors were IMGs. The odds of complaints were higher against IMGs than non-IMGs (odds ratio [OR], 1.24; 95% CI, 1.13-1.36; P < 0.001), as were the odds of adverse disciplinary findings (OR, 1.41; 95% CI, 1.07-1.85; P = 0.01). However, disaggregation of IMGs into their countries of qualification showed wide variation: doctors who qualified in Nigeria (OR, 4.02; 95% CI, 2.38-6.77), Egypt (OR, 2.32; 95% CI, 1.77-3.03), Poland (OR, 2.28; 95% CI, 1.43-3.61), Russia (OR, 2.21; 95% CI, 1.14-4.26), Pakistan (OR, 1.80; 95% CI, 1.09-2.98), the Philippines (OR, 1.80; 95% CI, 1.08-3.00) and India (OR, 1.61; 95% CI, 1.33-1.95) had higher odds of attracting complaints, but IMGs from the 13 other countries examined had odds that were not significantly different from Australian-trained doctors.

Conclusions: Overall, IMGs are more likely than Australian-trained doctors to attract complaints to medical boards and adverse disciplinary findings, but the risks differ markedly by country of training. Better understanding of such heterogeneity could inform a more evidence-based approach to registration and oversight rules.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Employee Discipline / statistics & numerical data*
  • Foreign Medical Graduates / statistics & numerical data*
  • Humans
  • Incidence
  • Malpractice / statistics & numerical data
  • Physicians / statistics & numerical data
  • Risk
  • Specialty Boards
  • Victoria
  • Western Australia