Doctors, not students, ‘in shortage’

John Dewar

John Dewar

RURAL medical students continue to voice their concerns over what they say is a lack of training options in regional areas after they graduate. 

The concerns come as La Trobe and Charles Sturt universities move forward with plans for a $46 million medical school – which would have a campus in Bendigo. 

The Australian Medical Students Association has called for those plans to be abandoned in favour of more vocational medical training in rural areas.

Ella Worboys, a fifth-year medical student at Monash University, said a shortage of rural doctors – not rural medical students – was the problem.

“Junior doctors base themselves in the cities in order to obtain further training, and remain there once they have established a career and life,” she said.

Rachel Drummond, a final year University of Melbourne medical student from Bendigo, said she wanted to stay and do her specialty training here, but “without an increase in funding for specialty training, that’s not going to be possible”.

“Even if I am able to do some of my specialty training in Bendigo, it won't be for long and definitely not as long as I would like,” she said.

“Eventually I will be forced to complete the rest of my specialty training in Melbourne, which means moving to the city. Many of my fellow students would also love to train in regional areas like Bendigo, but we just don’t have the opportunities once we graduate university.”

Specialty training, she added, took up to a decade.

“I’m worried that by the time I’m a qualified doctor and able to move back to Bendigo, my life will already be in Melbourne and it will be that much harder to return to the community that I love.”

La Trobe’s vice-chancellor John Dewar has said the establishment of a rural medical school to serve northern Victorians is “common sense”.

“We simply cannot as a nation meet the needs of the 30 per cent of Australians that live in rural and regional areas with fewer than 10 per cent of Australian medical graduates choosing rural practice,” he has said.

Mr Dewar claims evidence does not support the AMSA’s “assumption” that metropolitan medical students would stay in rural areas to work if they had more access to medical training in those places.