Issue 16 / 18 October 2010

A COUPLE of months ago I was pleased to receive a reminder from the Australian Health Practitioner Regulation Agency that my registration was due in September.

Despite a lot of uncertainty among the medical fraternity I was ready to embrace AHPRA’s promise of efficiency, consistency and transparency, as well as some decent stationery and a killer logo.

Included with the letter were a set of registration papers, a workforce survey and a request that I consider registering electronically.

After a few weeks of procrastination, I entered the username and password provided, along with my date of birth, into the practitioners’ section of the website.

My login was unsuccessful and, after a few more goes holding my mouth in the right position, I gave up, filled in the paper forms and popped them in the letterbox with 7 days to spare.

I waited for the postman. When the 30th came and went I checked my status on the public register.

No change.

I waited optimistically, remembering the 1-day turnaround time of my old paper-based medical board, occasionally peering at the recently expired registration slip nuzzled discreetly behind the Spotlight VIP card in my wallet.

My optimism was somewhat dented when a letter did arrive advising me that I am at risk of losing my medical registration for good should I neglect to renew it by the end of October.

A delightful young Irishman answered the phone at AHPRA.

He was not concerned about the letter, which he said had been sent to most people with a September registration due date.

On checking my details, however, he discovered the source of the login problem.

My date of birth was wrong. Not just wrong, but in the words of the young Irishman, “shockingly wrong”!

According to the AHPRA database I am a New Year’s baby — New Year’s Day 1900 to be precise.

My suggestion of “default setting” was met with a thoughtful silence and, feeling every inch my purported age, I was transferred to another operator.

Her pragmatic solution was that, as there was no record of receipt of my paper-based registration renewal and loss of registration was imminent, I log in to the website using the fictitious date of birth and complete my registration that way.

I like online shopping, travel and news websites but the AHPRA website was particularly entertaining.

It appeared to be set to time out approximately every 5 minutes.

On the first attempt I got to the end of the fitness-to-practice questions, the next two times I managed the workforce survey as well but I needed to make it to the finish line.

By randomly clicking the boxes on the first page, skipping the workforce survey and memorising my credit card number I managed to complete payment within the timeframe.

It was worth the sprint to the registration line because, after a day or two of trepidation, the website indicates that I am registered.

Who knows, I may now be the only 110-year-old registered medical practitioner in Australia.

Dr Ruth Armstrong is a Deputy Editor with the MJA. She is also (officially) a registered medical practitioner.

Posted 18 October 2010

22 thoughts on “Ruth Armstrong: A guide to renewing your registration

  1. Anonymous says:

    I have had similar experiences with AHPRA – the website unnavigable and the staff really undertrained. Twice I have had to contact them in search of a form I needed on-line (a different one in each case) – twice I have been told “oh we forgot to put that one up. Just use one of the others and cross out the heading”!
    It’s a comple shemozzle.

  2. Bill says:

    We have always been asked for a large sum of money for a small piece of thin cardboard. Now we are asked for an even larger sum of money, in return for what?

  3. Anonymous says:

    When I attempted online renewal, and reached the question about whether a complaint had ever been made about, and stated honestly that a complaint had been made about me, I received the message that my renewal would not be confirmed until this had been reviewed! I work in public hospital and community psychiatry and complaints to various bodies by paranoid patients (and sometimes family members) go with the territory. The complaint I recorded was resolved without formal investigation or any adverse finding over a year previously, but still held up my confirmation of renewal. The new board is going to be very busy it if reviews every complaint ever made against a doctor every year! I also couldn’t understand why the new board wouldn’t already have details of complaints previously dealt with by the state board. Surely they can look up their own records? A straw poll of colleagues found that many had simply not recorded old resolved complaints, and were renewed immediately.

  4. Dr Ken Harvey says:

    On 11/10/2010, while overseas, I received an SMS from 61427777723 “URGENT ACTION REQUIRED TO RENEW YOUR HEALTH PRACTITIONER REGISTRATION”.

    However, I had already registered online and paid my $650.00 before the end of the previous month.

    I sent this information back by SMS but got no reply.
    Filling out AHPRA’s web-based online enquiry form on several occasions also generated no response.

    On attempting to telephone AHPRA several times I could not get through; when I eventually did I got a message telling me to disregard SMS messages or written letters; it then immediately disconnected me so I was unable to vent my frustration on a staff member!

    This craziness clearly accounts for some of our increased registration fees but why should we put up with such incompetence, who is AHPRA accountable to, and to whom can we complain?

  5. Anonymous says:

    Ruth – we must be twins! I have exactly the same birthday as you (Jan 1, 1900) according to AHPRA. When I asked AHRPA for a receipt they told me one would not be sent, but if I showed as registered on the site that was reliable proof that I had paid, as well as debit on my credit card. Hope the tax man agrees.

  6. HP Dietz says:

    Isn’t it amazing how much incompetence Australian doctors are prepared to put up with from government bureaucrats?

  7. Anonymous says:

    I am particularly impressed by AHPRA’s inability to enable someone looking me up distinguish between whether I have “conditions, undertakings or reprimands” on the initial search page. As such all those of us trained overseas with some form of condition (such as the onerous one of only being able to practice as a specialist in our specialist field) appear in the same box as those who have been “reprimanded”.

  8. JG Colebatch says:

    I am also irritated by the general incompetence and offhanded behaviour by AHPRA, the high cost of renewal, the large fine for being even a day late ($325) and the requirements relating to complaints. First, there is the need to report any complaint ever made (every renewal, even if dismissed), noted by another correspondent, and second, the requirement to notify within 7 days any complaint made to a “State and Territory bodies responsible for health complaints..”. There is no qualification about whether the complaint is thought to be reasonable or its seriousness and this is a very and unduly onerous provision.
    These conditions are harsh and we should press to have them changed.

  9. Dr.ARC says:

    I wonder given the experiences of the above commentaries and my own experience whether any doctors who renewed through AHPRA managed to get their renewal by the end of September, correctly.
    I left in excess of 12 emails to AHPRA and only after I was able to get past the Irish man and a sypathetic English speaking lady, was I able to establish they had recieved my payment for non practising physcian, $125, but I had to apply for renewal of my non practising status. Given that I had retired 3 years previously, but still had full practising rights, I felt this was a bit strange, since I had already applied for non practising registration at the end of September.
    One has to ponder why the increase of $300 this year over last year’s registration fee. What is the money used for??
    Why is registration in NSW, $185 cheaper than in other states?? I can understand why a non practising doctor doesn’t have prescribing rights, but it beggars belief why you can’t refer patients to Specialists if you are not fully registered.

  10. Anonymous says:

    Same for me. Paid 2/9/10. Got a letter stating deregistration was imminent in mid October. Spent 1 hour on the phone: cut off 3 times before an operator answered, once when being transferred, cut off before the operator again, then got promised a call back as it was ‘renewals’ fault. Then received the SMS above and called AGAIN (15min on hold, 3rd time). Told to ignore everything and it would all be OK. THEN got my promised call back and was told there was a glitch and although I had paid it had not been updated in the ‘system’ (hence everything would not have been OK if I had left it,) and that I.T. would fix it for me. Finally, it appears I am registered.

  11. D. M. Cunningham says:

    I also had great difficulty in registering on the internet and after several attempts gave up and sent it by post. When I had not received confirmation I made contact by phone, and they told me the amount I had paid (what they had asked me to pay) was incorrect, and I was advised to pay the correct amount, this was two days before the deadline. After having difficulty once more in establishing my registration on the internet, I once again contacted them by phone. Ninety minutes later, the third person I spoke to was Scottish, who spoke my native tongue who very helpfully guided me through my registration. I can understand people getting panicky as one can imagine what would happen if you had been deregistered and the performance one would have to go through to get back on the register.

  12. Rashid Bashir says:

    These are teething problems !! As the full set of teeth might take 14 years and then wisdom teeth another few years, I suppose by 2026 we’ll be alright !!

  13. Anonymous says:

    I have noticed that almost every doctor with post-graduate qualifications is shown as obtaining them in the same year as they graduated, e.g. MB BS 1980, FRACGP 1980

    I even got my FAChAM in 1980, although the Chapter did not yet exist…

    Some time after I queried this, a change was made, but I can’t see at all what year I became a FAChAM.

  14. Simon Byrne says:

    I think I have been de-registered, because I failed to get the various notifications while I have been working in northern Newfoundland. I plan to practice back in Australia in a year or so, so I think I had better start the registration process now, judging by other people’s experiences.

  15. Ian Hamilton says:

    I also have experienced problems with a change in the restriction posted as a result of overseas qualification, a change made by AHPRA in error but which they will not reverse.
    Surely all these experiences amount to a demonstrable lack of confidence in this organisation, and we should expect our professional bodies to be campaigning vigorously on our behalf to improve it. Are they? I haven’t noticed!

  16. Anonymous says:

    Ditto the experience with SMS alert and letter warning of deregistration, despite the online register displaying currently registered status.
    I have not received an invoice for tax purposes despite repeated requests.

  17. David McCuaig says:

    Perhaps the Federal AMA Executive will consider a survey of all members with a questionnaire inserted into their copies of the MJA.The replies will provide good data as I am sure a significant proportion of the profession have had similar problems with AHPRA. My experience is similar to the ones already posted.

  18. Richard says:

    I must be one of the lucky ones. Despite several attempts to contact the AHPRA and eventually an assurance that my registration number would be confirmed in writing, I heard absolutely nothing. I have still heard nothing. I recently discovered, quite by accident (through my locum agency), that I was on the register. My qualifications (basic and specialist) are both duplicated. My renewal date magically changed from September 2010 to February 2011 without explanation. All available, publicly online and I was the last to know! What a mess.

  19. Michael Hampton says:

    Well, I have at least registered – as what, I am not sure. Certainly they have invented my qualifications, but then the Medical Practitioner’s Board of Victoria was adept at that too. Funnily enough the old Medical Board of Victoria, run from a couple of rooms by a couple of public servants, always got it right. As for whether they have accepted my vocational registration or my FRACGP – who knows. I cannot fathom their terms and definitions. One gets the feeling that they are so intent on rooting out incompetence as they perceive it (even if it leaves communities with no care) that the mundane and simple task of maintaining a register does not feature on their horizon. Delusions of grandeur???

  20. Anonymous says:

    Is anyone benefiting from the “streamlining” that AHPRA is supposed to give? Certainly it costs more!

  21. RP says:

    Perhaps this whole affair should serve as a warning to those who clamour for a Federal takeover of all health services!

  22. John McEwen says:

    I received my national registration certificate last week. My name is spelt Mcewen. Every other certificate I have – birth, graduations, ACT registrations, motor licence, etc is spelt McEwen, which is my name. Even the National Authority’s electronic record shows McEwen, so there is internal inconsistency at the organisation. Does this have implications for all the Australian health professional Mc’s, Mac’s, O’Donnells and other O’s and even Van Der Weyden’s??
    I informed the media unit at the Authority. My email and phone number were taken, but no response came back on Friday.

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