Students, Monash University say Bendigo medical school idea not the answer to doctor shortage

The medical students' body says funding for La Trobe University's medical school could instead go towards specialist training.
The medical students' body says funding for La Trobe University's medical school could instead go towards specialist training.

Related: La Trobe launches new medical school push

THE medical students’ body has called for an “evidence-based” approach to solve the rural doctor shortage and, when it comes to La Trobe University’s plan, the evidence does not stack up, students claim.

The Australian Medical Students’ Association has opposed the $46 million plan since its inception, believing a new medical school would detract from greater specialist training in regional areas.

Unless they enter general practice, medical students are required to complete up to 10 years of specialist training after their degree – training which only exists in cities.

AMSA rural health committee co-chair Brad Wittmer said a new medical school in Bendigo would not address this issue.

“We believe that new medical school proposals detract from a funding opportunity for increased specialist training opportunities in regional and rural communities,” he said.

“The Murray Darling Medical School model proposes sites in which rural clinical schools are already well established.

“Therefore, a much more practical solution would be to focus on the expansion of the already existing rural clinical schools in those areas.”

La Trobe University argues its model would encourage the government to allocate more specialist training places in Bendigo, believing the current rural clinical school model has caused the sector to stagnate.

The university’s plan would allow medical students to spend the entirety of their degree in Bendigo or other country areas, an opportunity not currently available.

Mr Wittmer said clinical schools were starting to offer the same opportunity interstate.

“Rural clinical schools have already begun providing enrolment for students for the entirety of their degree,” he said.

“The University of New South Wales has just enroled their first cohort of students who will have the opportunity to complete the entirety of their degree at the Port Macquarie Rural Clinical School.”

Mr Wittmer said students were taught to “practice on the best available evidence”.

Monash University rejects new medical school push

Monash University believes improving post-graduate training in regional areas is the best way to address the rural doctor shortage – not adding a rural medical school.

A medical faculty spokesperson for Monash University, which operates the Bendigo Rural Clinical School with Melbourne University, stated there were other solutions.

“The acute problem for rural and regional Australia is not a shortage of rural medical schools,” the statement read.

“The real problem is a lack of post-graduate training opportunities in rural areas which then force doctors back to the city for four to seven years, where they often settle down and stay.  

“Australia already graduates more doctors per capita than any other OECD country but we have not put in place the speciality training opportunities they require in rural and regional areas.”

The federal government recently announced 26 new regional health training hubs to for clinical training in regional Australia.