By Jonquil Frankham

SYDNEY, Australia, November 3, 2008 ( – Dr Bernhard Moeller, a German physician who has been helping fill the doctor shortage in Australia’s Victoria state, has been denied permanent residency because his 13-year old son has Down syndrome.

Down syndrome is a disability caused by an extra 21st chromosome, and has several illnesses associated with it, such as congenital heart disease and chronic ear infections. “A medical officer of the Commonwealth assessed that his son’s existing medical condition was likely to result in a significant and ongoing cost to the Australian community,” a spokesman from the Department of Immigration and Citizenship said.

A press release from the department on October 30th stated that Dr Moeller is able to seek a review of this decision, firstly through the Migration Review Tribunal and then by pursuing judicial review or requesting ministerial intervention if the tribunal upholds the department’s decision. Meanwhile, the doctor and his family hold a temporary visa until 2010.

Moeller says he is disappointed by the department’s decision, and will appeal the decision. YahooNews reports that Moeller has “powerful supporters” in the Premier of Victoria, John Brumby, and Federal Health Minister Nicola Roxon. “As a government, we understand the importance of having doctors working in our rural and regional communities and we support them in many ways and continue to do this,” Roxon said.

The department insists that the refusal is not due to discrimination against people with disabilities, but rather reflects the department’s responsibility to not financially overburden the state’s medical system. “It is long-standing government policy that high-cost medical conditions are a consideration in visa decisions,” said the spokesman.

As YahooNews reports, the “shortages of medical practitioners in rural parts of Australia have led a number of recent government initiatives to boost the numbers of doctors and nurses nationwide.” The hospital where Dr Moeller works “had invested a lot of time and energy in recruiting the German specialist to Horsham, about 100 miles northwest of Melbourne.”

  To express concerns contact the Australian Embassy:
[email protected]


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