Doctors considering legal action after online exam cancelled

Doctors are considering a class action against their member organisation after a computer glitch led to the cancelation of an exam for hundreds of participants in New Zealand and Australia. 

The Royal Australian College of Physicians has apologised and says an internal review is underway to determine what went wrong.

For the first time, the high-stakes exam for 1200 qualified doctors sitting paediatrics or adult medicine was done online, but an error meant candidates could not log into the system for part of the test. 

One doctor, who wanted to remain anonymous, said it was an easily preventable dilemma. 

"It was quite a chaotic environment, and certainly there was a lot of misinformation and very little actual information coming through," they told Newshub.

"And nothing from any official source. It did appear from the outset that there was very little in the way of a contingency plan."

Others vented online after the College said everyone would need to re-sit the test. 

"I'm working the next 10 days in a row, including 3 x 14.5 hour days on call prior to the repeat exam", one wrote on Facebook.

"How on earth is anyone supposed to have confidence in the leadership when they use their membership as guinea pigs?" asked another. 

"It's outrageous, it's unacceptable, it's preposterous".

The New Zealand Resident Doctor's Association says the exam involved at least 12 months of preparation. 

"It's well recognised as a very stressful exam," says national secretary Dr Deborah Powell. 

"You build up to it, you finally get to the exam and then…I mean the guys are just shattered. We've had people in tears."

There's now talk of legal action against the college. 

"People have been sharing on social media of a draft statement from a law firm somewhere in Australia," says the anonymous doctor.

New Zealand president of the College Jonathan Christiansen has offered an apology.

"It's a terrible situation for our trainees to be in," he says. 

"What we are saying is we sincerely apologise for putting our trainees and our supervisors and our hospitals in this situation."

The College says it will consider "every form" of compensation. 

Another doctor told Newshub that candidates asked for paper copies when they could not log into the exam, but were told paper versions were not available. Instead, he says, they were told to remain seated for four hours. People eventually left, some in tears. 

The College is also seeking an explanation from the company it contracted to manage the online exam.