Mass resignation as trainee psychiatrists declare no confidence in RANZCP board

The committee representing trainee psychiatrists has declared it has no confidence in the board of the RANZCP. Picture: Shutterstock
The committee representing trainee psychiatrists has declared it has no confidence in the board of the RANZCP. Picture: Shutterstock

Australia's peak psychiatry body has suffered a mass resignation as the country grapples with a worsening mental health crisis.

A group representing every trainee psychiatrist in Australia and New Zealand has declared no confidence in the board of the Royal Australian and New Zealand College of Psychiatrists, and has demanded their resignation.

With Australia suffering a mental health crisis brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic, the RANZCP has struggled to accredit would-be psychiatrists since April 2020, with many trainees complaining their lives have been put on hold.

The RANZCP is Australia's only accreditation body for psychiatrists.

In a letter sent to RANZCP president Vinay Lakra on Saturday, its trainee representative committee announced a mass resignation - 13 of 16 representatives - in protest over the college's failure to graduate would-be psychiatrists "at a time of dire need".

It has declared no-confidence in Dr Lakra and the board, but did not have the power to bring the motion under the group's rules.

Over the weekend, more than 200 would-be psychiatrists had an exam postponed until next year after technical glitches. For many, the test was the final hurdle to accreditation.

And with many trainees struggling financially and psychologically due to the strain of rolling postponements and high exam costs, the letter accused the RANZCP of reducing trainees to "little more than statistics".

"Within the RANZCP there is a culture of disregard for trainee welfare and feedback," it read.

"The disaster last weekend ... was not a surprise. On the contrary, it was entirely predictable.

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"The absence of a contingency plan more than 18 months into a global pandemic and during the midst of a shadow mental health pandemic represents a profound lack of froward-planning at an organisational level and forms part of a broader pattern of incompetence."

The trainee representative committee also accused the college of "glaring deficiencies" in its training program, saying it had failed to deliver fair or consistent exams.

The Canberra Times also understands many trainees have been angered by another exam - an essay-style test - criticised by the Australian Council for Educational Research for not reflecting clinical requirements for psychiatrists.

The test's pass rate had been mired at roughly 20 per cent in recent years, rising to around just 50 per cent in the past 12 months. Candidates were required to pay more than $1000 for each attempt, and failure had the potential to see them expelled.

The Canberra Times has also spoken to several candidates who have failed the exam multiple times, despite passing the remainder of the course. Many believed it was disproportionately affecting candidates with English as a second language.

Trainees accounted for more than one-quarter of RANZCP psychiatrists.

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This story Future psychiatrists resign from RANZCP in protest first appeared on The Canberra Times.