COMMENT: Missed chance to fund 700 training posts for rural doctors

I've been here since I first arrived as a junior doctor in the early 1990s. I had to leave for three years to complete my specialist training in emergency medicine.

I returned to Orange in 2000 once I was a trained specialist because I was fortunate to have a wife who was supportive, and we both worked hard with the dedicated aim to return to practice in this town.

Many of our colleagues left to complete training and never returned, because by the time they had finished they were weighed down with mortgages, kids in school and the rest.

This has nothing to do with the ‘Sydney-centric universities’ because vocational medical training is not conducted by any university in Australia. Charles Sturt University will have no part in this 'pipeline training' either. This training is entirely hospital-based.

The key to fixing the rural doctor shortage is to get the State and Federal governments to work together to fund additional training in rural centres. Last year, the 17 internship places in Orange were oversubscribed by keen applicants at a rate of about 5:1, as I understand it.

I have no doubt (and neither do many of my senior colleagues in Orange) that we could provide excellent vocational training to many more junior doctors without them having to leave.

The major stumbling block is the lack of funding available to create these vocational training positions. It's not even about upgrading the hospital to 'teaching quality': we already have an amazing health facility which hosts in excess of 40 medical students a year, and provides excellent vocational training to a smaller number of junior doctors out of medical school.

It is about enhancing the budget to allow us to employ more vocationally-training doctors - to use the training capacity which we already have to its full extent.

I am one of the many senior doctors in Orange who strongly believe that the funding directed toward the medical schools network would have been far more effectively spent in the creation of vocational 'pipeline training' posts.

By my guestimate, $94 million would have funded about 600-700 new rural vocational training posts.

Now that would make a huge difference to the rural doctor shortage.

Doctor Louis Christie

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