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Media Release: As a graduate bubble looms, medical students call on the Council of Australian Governments (COAG) to urgently commission a National Medical Workforce Strategy

04 May 2018

 

The Australian Medical Students Association (AMSA), the representative body for Australia’s 17000 medical students, has today joined the AMA in calling for a National Strategy to address significant healthcare workforce challenges and implement long-term workforce planning for Australia’s future health needs. 

Today the AMA Medical Workforce and Training Summit, held in March, delivered its findings on the lack of training places for medical graduates, the maldistribution of the medical workforce, the under- and over-supply in some specialty areas, and the growing importance of generalist training. 

AMSA President Ms Alex Farrell said, “As the 2018 Budget approaches and lobbyists promote the idea of creating another new medical school in NSW and Victoria, this report is particularly timely. At the Medical Workforce and Training Summit over 80 expert stakeholders gathered and agreed that establishing new medical schools is simply a waste of money.” 

“It was clear at the Summit that all the experts were on the same page-  funding new medical school places takes money away from where it is needed further down the pipeline in vocational training. 

“The report concluded that pushing more students into a training pipeline already overwhelmed by existing medical graduates makes absolutely no sense.” 

“Compounding the problem, this year we are looking at a large jump in graduating numbers of medical students. The graduating cohort is expected to exceed the number of internship offers by over 350 students, based on the number of offers made in 2016. This threatens to leave students unable to secure internships, meaning they can’t become qualified doctors and practice.”

This comes as the Government considers several proposals in the upcoming budget which could worsen the crisis. This includes reviewing a program called the Commonwealth Medical Internship (CMI) program that federally funds 100 internship places, particularly in rural areas.

“If the Federal Government cuts funding to the Commonwealth internship scheme in the upcoming budget, the numbers of unemployed graduates would skyrocket even further.” 

“We are worried that this year the shortage will be much, much worse. Already struggling to provide internship spots, how can we fit any more?” said Ms Farrell. 

Ms Farrell said “AMSA calls for the critical Commonwealth Medical Internships program to be refunded and for the Government to refrain from spending more money on creating new medical schools; to put the money into retaining the doctors we have, and directing them to the country.”

 “Moving forward, we need a National Medical Workforce Strategy to keep the focus on sustainable solutions rather than short-sighted schemes that don’t target the real problems.”

Background: 

  • In Australia, a medical student cannot be registered as a Doctor until they complete a one year internship in an accredited hospital. 
  • Australia has one of the highest ratios of medical schools per capita in the developed world, with 22 schools including Macquarie Medical School which opened this year and Curtin University which opened in 2017.
  • While medical student numbers have more than doubled since 2006, post-graduate training positions have not increased proportionally (source).
  • By 2030 there are projected to be 1000 more applicants than available advanced vocational training positions (source).
  • The Summit highlighted a number of other key areas for action including:
    • the need to better support generalism;
    • a focus on matching training with community need;
    • more opportunities for specialist training in rural areas;
    • the development of a strong rural training pathway;
    • supporting careers in undersupplied specialties; and
    • the establishment of the National Rural Generalist Pathway.

Media Contact: Joel Selby

Email: pro@amsa.org.au

Phone: 0406919800

 

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Published: 04 May 2018