Dec 22, 2016

Quadriplegic is state’s only medical graduate yet to receive job offer from Queensland Health

DOCTOR Dinesh Palipana is considered one of the best interns to have ever graduated from the Griffith School of Medicine and is being pursued for a job at Harvard University.

But tell that to Queensland Health as they prepare to hire 700 graduates in the new year.

As the only quadriplegic to put his hand up for a job, Dr Palipana is the only graduate in the state yet to get a response.

Queensland Health is defending its position, but there are concerns within the medical community that the award-winning student is being treated unfairly.

Dr Palipana has been described as one of the most highly skilled students Griffith School of Medicine has graduated and has been provisionally registered by the Australian Health Practitioner Regulation Authority (AHPRA).

Dr Dinesh Palipana with Griffith School of Medicine colleagues Dr Gary Grant and Professor Harry McConnell. Photo: Scott Fletcher

However, six months after fellow graduates were told where they would be working next year and despite doctor shortages in parts of the state, the 32-year-old is still waiting to learn if Queensland Health will offer him an internship.

“I never expected this to be an easy process but it would be nice if we were able to work through it in a more efficient manner,” said Dr Palipana, who attended his graduation ceremony on Friday.

“I started discussions with them in 2015 … (and) I’ve had a bunch of letters that are inconsistent. They’ve been fairly opaque (non-transparent) with the process but it’s definitely because of the spinal cord injury.

Dr Dinesh Palipana with mother Chithrani. Photo: Adam Head

“If (my application) fails, I’ll go interstate or maybe the US because they seem more open to employing physicians with different physical abilities.”

A Queensland Health spokeswoman said the department was yet to be formally advised by AHPRA that Dr Palipana’s provisional registration conditions had been finalised.

“Queensland Health has been in contact with AHPRA … and is still actively considering internship options that meet the requirements set out by AHPRA,” she said.

Dr Palipana was midway through his medical degree when he had a devastating road accident in 2010.

Dinesh Palipana spent seven months in Brisbane’s PA Hospital spinal unit after his road accident in 2010. During his time there, he met ‘Smokin’ Joe Frazier when the legendary boxer visited the hospital.

He spent seven months in a Brisbane spinal unit and three years in his family’s native Sri Lanka before returning to the third year of his studies in January 2015.

He has since completed two years of clinical rotations at Gold Coast University Hospital, including three months in the emergency department. He also received honours during a stint at Harvard University’s teaching hospital, which has expressed interest in employing him.

Griffith School of Medicine clinical subdean Professor Harry McConnell said he and his colleagues had no doubt Dr Palipana would make a “fantastic intern and an amazing doctor”.

“There were many people in high positions who did not believe it was possible … but Dinesh has gone that extra step to silence anyone who might think he’s not capable of acting in a necessary manner,” he said.

Dr Dinesh Palipana at his Griffith School of Medicine graduation ceremony. Photo: Mike Batterham

“From AHPRA’s standpoint, he is a registered doctor … I’ve spoken to the (Gold Coast Health) chair (Ian Langdon) personally and he’s very enthusiastic about him being an intern.

“He will be one of the best interns we’ve ever graduated.”

Dr Palipana said Queensland Health had even offered him counselling during the drawn-out process.

“I had the accident, I’ve been paralysed, I’ve spent seven months in hospital, we lost our family home and financial security,” he said.

“We’ve been through a bit and I replied by saying ‘I can handle this but I’d love to start working if possible’.”

Queensland Health expects to employ more than 700 medical graduates in 2017.

Dwayne Grant, Gold Coast Bulletin