A five-point plan to boost the number of regional doctors by the Australian Medical Association shares many of the same philosophies as the proposed Murray Darling Medical School (MDMS).
Charles Sturt University vice chancellor professor Andrew Vann said the AMA’s plan for more medical students to come from regional areas and do some of their training in the bush was the same as their arguments for the MDMS.
On Tuesday the AMA released its Rural Workforce Initiatives report calling for one-third of all medical students to come from regional NSW and a mandatory 12-month training period in a rural area for all trainee doctors.
Professort Vann said he read the report with interest.
“It makes all the same arguments that we would make when talking about the Murray Darling Medical School,” he said.
“We have always said taking regional students and training them in the regions was the best way to get them to stay.”
There was one area the AMA and CSU disagreed, with the doctor’s body remaining firm in its belief that there shouldn’t be any more medical schools.
“Australia does not need more medical schools or more medical school places. Workforce projections suggest that Australia is heading for an oversupply of doctors,” AMA president Dr Michael Gannon said.
“Targeted initiatives to increase the size of the rural medical, nursing, and allied health workforce are what is required.”
Professor Vann said CSU respectfully disagreed, because the MDMS would attract more regional students and provide an advantage with their entire education taking place in regional NSW.
“We think our case speaks for itself, and it is extremely cost effective,” he said.
Dr Gannon said the AMA’s plan was aimed at getting more doctors to work in regional and remote areas and improve access to health services for patients.
“About seven million Australians live in regional, rural, and remote areas, and they often have more difficulty accessing health services than their city cousins,” he said.
“They often have to travel long distances for care, and rural hospital closures and downgrades are seriously affecting the future delivery of health care in rural areas.
“For example, more than 50 per cent of small rural maternity units have been closed in the past two decades.”
Dr Gannon said the number of medical students had increased but three-quarters of locally-trained graduates were living in capital cities.
The average age of rural doctors was almost 55 while doctors trained overseas made up 40 per cent of all doctors in country areas.