Bunfight over push for rural medical school
By Tessa Hoffman, Senior Reporter, Australian Doctor
Medical students have condemned a push for a new medical school in regional NSW, claiming it will fuel a training bottleneck predicted to leave 400 graduates without internships next year.
The NSW Medical Students’ Council says it makes no sense for the Federal Government to consider spending $46 million on a new medical school when students are missing out on internship and GP training positions.
Council chair Neel Gobin says he expects 120-140 full-fee paying medical students to miss out on internships next year in NSW alone. The Australian Medical Students' Association is tipping a national figure of 400.
Given the government had recently promised to fund Curtin University's medical school in WA, which is to open in 2017, it should fix bottlenecks in the system before considering funding the Murray–Darling medical school proposed by Charles Sturt and La Trobe universities, Mr Gobin says.
“We know these bottlenecks exist in every state,” he says.
“Australia needs more doctors, not more medical students.”
The universities are proposing the school as a way to solve the rural doctor shortage.
It would have an 80% rural, regional and Indigenous intake, and offer 120 places across campuses at Orange and Wagga Wagga in NSW, and Bendigo in Victoria.
While the government has not committed funding, the idea is backed by Assistant Minister for Health Senator Fiona Nash.
Charles Sturt University's secretary and director of corporate affairs, Mark Burdack, who will be the medical school's executive director, rejects the claim the proposed school will exacerbate the intern places shortage.
Mr Burdack says the school will only offer places to Australian Commonwealth-supported students that come with a guaranteed internship.
He says demand for intern places will peak in 2015 as long as existing medical schools don’t increase places and, by the time students from the proposed school graduated in 2022, more intern places will have been created.
Mr Burdack added that policies geared at addressing the rural doctor shortage had failed and it was time to try something new.
Currently, 75% of students got just four weeks’ exposure to rural medicine, while the remainder spent a year or more training at regional clinical schools.
But he claimed there was overwhelming evidence that operating medical schools in rural areas was “the only solution to address geographic maldistribution”.
Seventy per cent of final-year medical students at James Cook University indicated interest in working in a rural area, and more than 60% of graduates undertook internships in the bush, he said.
“This is a rural medical school for rural students because we’re worried about rural workforce.”
He said it was a double standard that the Murray–Darling region was being told it couldn't have a medical school when established schools had been allowed to create more than 220 new places — including 149 for international students — in the past few years, and were pushing to expand even further.
Article published on 10 June 2015, via Australian Doctor -
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