Rural areas need more training places, not more medical schools: Rural Doctors Association

Rural Doctors Association of Australia president Dr Ewen McPhee says funding should go towards increasing training opportunities for graduate doctors.
Rural Doctors Association of Australia president Dr Ewen McPhee says funding should go towards increasing training opportunities for graduate doctors.

THE Rural Doctors Association claims there are already enough young doctors graduating in rural areas to meet the demand in the bush – but they are all being lost to the city.

The position was at odds with La Trobe and Charles Sturt universities’ plans to open the Murray Darling Medical School, with campuses proposed for Bendigo, Wagga Wagga and Orange.

But association president Ewen McPhee said they would be open to discussing the idea with the universities.

“We have approached Charles Sturt and La Trobe Universities to discuss their proposal for the Murray Darling Medical School, however we have not yet had the opportunity to present RDAA’s position on these proposed additional rural medical student training places,” he said.

The medical school would add 80 places per year in Bendigo, with students completing more time in regional areas than current pathways.

About 100 students complete their medicine degrees in Bendigo already through the Rural Clinic School run by Monash and Melbourne universities.

Dr McPhee said the rural doctor shortage was a result of a lack of postgraduate training opportunities in regional areas.

“There are now more than enough young doctors graduating from our existing rural medical schools to meet the need for more doctors in the bush, provided we can keep them engaged in rural medicine once they leave the university quadrangle,” he said.

“The main problem is that we are losing too many of these newly-minted doctors to the cities once they have graduated, because there aren't currently enough opportunities in rural communities for them to undertake their intern year, or post-graduate or advanced skills training.

“Many graduates of our existing rural medical schools desperately want to stay in rural locations to undertake the next stage of their training, but they can't find the training places or rotation opportunities they need.”

The comments echo those from the Australian Medical Students’ Association, which has consistently opposed the Murray Darling Medical School on similar grounds.

Representatives of the Murray Darling Medical School plan to meet with the RDAA in Canberra on August 15.

A spokesperson for La Trobe University said the medical school proposal is known to support the RDAA’s call for more places in rural hospitals and rural general practice.

The Murray Darling Medical School remains a policy of the National Party.

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