Media Release: Medical students warn of graduate tsunami, reaffirming that the proposed Murray-Darling Medical School would only add to the flood
The Australian Medical Students’ Association (AMSA), the peak representative body for Australia’s 17,000 medical students, has today reiterated its opposition to the proposal to open a new medical school in the Murray-Darling region by La Trobe and Charles Sturt Universities.
As Budget night approaches, medical students are concerned that lobby groups are demanding that the Federal Government waste $50 million of taxpayer dollars on a solution which cannot solve the maldistribution of doctors in our regional areas, and will only worsen the oversupply of graduates.
AMSA President Ms Alex Farrell said: “We have come to expect these kind of last-minute politicised funding grabs in the lead-up to the Budget from proponents of Murray-Darling Medical School (MDMS).
“This proposal has been a flop year after year because it simply cannot fix the issues it claims to address. Funding this proposal would be a short-sighted political move, not a solution to rural workforce needs.
“Rural Clinical Schools already operate in the Murray-Darling Basin region. Medical students currently study in Orange, Wagga Wagga and Bathurst in NSW, and in Shepparton, Bendigo and Ballarat in Victoria. Why spend millions of dollars to reinvent the wheel?
“Rural schools in the region are staffed by dedicated local doctors and educators. Blaming these professionals for the workforce maldistribution when the problem really lies further down the training pipeline is misleading and misguided.
“These rural schools are already doing an incredible job. Internships in these areas are over-subscribed every year. It is senseless to spend millions to place new universities and students there, when there is plenty of junior doctor interest, but no pathways for these young doctors to stay in the country for their specialty training.
“If simply getting more students to study medicine in the country was the answer, it would be solved by now. We have hundreds of students training in the country, in all the places the Murray-Darling Medical School is proposed. What we don’t have is a way to allow them to stay rural after medical school and internship.
“New medical schools always come with increases in student numbers, regardless of what is promised - Curtin, Macquarie, the new campus at Sunshine Coast, all announced in the past three years, and each time we have seen the number of medical students increase despite everyone knowing that we already have too many graduating junior doctors.
“Australia does not need more medical students. It needs more fully qualified doctors in rural and regional areas. To produce them we need more vocational training positions in the bush.
“At the moment, there is an oversupply of medical graduates at every level, and a shortage of post-graduate training positions. A medical student can’t become a fully qualified doctor capable of independent practice without 5-12 years of post-graduate training after medical school.”
Although graduating medical students and doctors want to work in the country, currently there is not a sufficient number of positions to train them.
“There is so much that needs fixing in rural health and so much we’d like to see come out of the Budget - there are ways this cash could be used to make a difference. It’s just disappointing to see this proposal get backing knowing it will have minimal impact and not for years,” Ms Farrell said.
“This funding would be better spent on providing training positions so that doctors are able to train, study and settle in the country. The only result of adding more students without fixing the pipeline will be more graduates who have no training to actually practise medicine, and so will likely leave the region as soon as they graduate.”
• 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.
• By 2030 there are projected to be 1000 more applicants than available advanced vocational training positions (source).
Published: 20 Apr 2018