Medical Students: Budget a missed opportunity for medical workforce investment
The Australian Medical Students’ Association (AMSA) welcomes certain elements of the federal budget, but is concerned by the government’s lack of investment in medical education.
AMSA is the peak representative body for Australia’s 17,000 medical students and believes while the 2017 Budget will continue to fund the Specialist Training Program and support rural background recruitment, cuts to funding will impact quality of medical education.
AMSA President, Rob Thomas, said: “We are pleased to see that there will be no increases in medical student places from new medical schools, and that funding continues for the crucial Commonwealth Medical Internships Program.
“However, this budget was a real opportunity for the government to contribute to the future health workforce by increasing specialist training in regional and rural areas and ensuring medical schools are adequately funded.
“AMSA has called for more places in the Specialist Training Program to be delivered in rural and regional areas, as this is required to ensure a sustainable rural medical workforce. The budget delivers no net increase overall, and a marginally increased proportion from 39% rural places currently to 45% by 2021.
“This means that those who want to work rurally will continue to have to undertake the majority of their training in metropolitan areas, decreasing the likelihood that they will be rural doctors in the long-term.
“As part of addressing rural workforce shortages, AMSA has called for medical places allocated to students from rural background to 33%. We welcome the Government’s increased target for rural background medical school entry from 25% to 30%.
Whilst AMSA is relieved that university fee deregulation is off the table, the higher education reform announcement poses new concerns.
Mr Thomas said: “According to the Medical Deans of Australia and New Zealand, funding for medical education falls short by $23,500 per student per year. This discrepancy places major strains on the training of future doctors in Australia.
“By reducing commonwealth base funding for medical education by 2.5% in each of 2018 and 2019, this figure will only expand, impacting the quality of basic medical education.”
Finally, AMSA welcomes the Government’s commitment of $5 million over the next two years to Orygen, the National Centre of Excellence in Youth Mental Health and a further $10 million to the Black Dog Institute and Sunshine Coast Mind and Neuroscience.
Mr Thomas said: “With medical students facing a disproportionate burden of mental illness, the Government’s increased funding for mental health research is to be applauded. We are hopeful that a proportion of this funding will be devoted to the research of university student mental health.”
Media Contact: Isabella Gosper
Phone: 0416 816 830
Published: 09 May 2017