DR Gannon - The World Today - Murray Darling Medical School Proposal
ELANOR HALL: Doctors and medical students have lashed out at plans for a new medical school in the Murray Darling region. The plan's being proposed by Charles Sturt and La Trobe University leaders, who argue it'll boost rural doctor numbers. But opponents say the proposal isn't addressing the real issue, and that is the number and location of specialty training places. Our reporter, Danny Tran, prepared this report.
DANNY TRAN: The universities behind the Murray Darling Medical School argue it's the key to solving the doctor shortage. But the plan makes no sense, according to the Vice President of the Australian Medical Students Association, Doug Roche.
DOUG ROCHE: What would likely happen without any change in policy at the moment is that they would, if they're interested in specialising particular specialties, they will be forced to go back to the city to do that.
DANNY TRAN: Under the plan, 180 medical school spots would be moved from the city to Bendigo in Victoria, and Orange and Wagga Wagga in New South Wales. Behind the bid is Charles Sturt University and La Trobe University. They say doctors who train in rural and regional areas are more likely to build a career there. They've even commissioned a new independent economic assessment, which finds that funding regional medical schools would be three times more effective in boosting rural doctor numbers, compared to funding places in the city. But Doug Roche believes that's not the real issue.
DOUG ROCHE: The problem that we face at the moment is a shortage of specialty training places in rural areas, not clinical training in rural areas themselves. So essentially any new medical school in a rural area is unlikely to actually provide for rural doctors in that particular area in the future.
DANNY TRAN: It's something he's facing personally as a medical student based in Toowoomba.
DOUG ROCHE: If I wanted to do training in a particular area, I may be forced to go back to Brisbane or to another metropolitan centre to do that.
MICHAEL GANNON: Well, certainly, it's the case that for most specialties you have to travel to the city for part, if not all, of your training.
DANNY TRAN: That's national President of the AMA, Dr Michael Gannon. He believes focussing on the location of medical schools isn't the main issue.
MICHAEL GANNON: That is the key, that we develop the appropriate number of specialist training positions, and that wherever possible we enhance the quality of and the number of training positions in rural and regional areas. We need to give medical students and junior doctors, doctors in training, very positive experiences when they spend time in rural and regional areas.
DANNY TRAN: According to him, Australia's rapidly approaching a crisis when it comes to specialist training places.
MICHAEL GANNON: We've got a situation now where we're graduating well over 3500 medical students each year. I can guarantee you that the number of advanced training positions in the specialties is closer to 1000. Now, these numbers just do not stack up. Australia wants high-quality doctors, but to get there we've got to start looking at the specialist training programs, the GP training program, rather than just focussing on the universities and what they want to achieve.
ELEANOR HALL: That's the AMA President, Dr Michael Gannon, ending that report from Danny Tran.
26 April 2017
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