Rural doctor shortage up for debate as AMA releases five-point plan to solve issue

La Trobe University hopes to co-locate its own medical school in Bendigo, Orange and Wagga Wagga.
La Trobe University hopes to co-locate its own medical school in Bendigo, Orange and Wagga Wagga.

A FIVE-POINT plan from the Australian Medical Association to boost the number of regional doctors could align with La Trobe University’s Murray Darling Medical School plan, co-located in Bendigo.

But Australia’s medical students’ association remains steadfast in its opposition to the medical school, claiming greater emphasis needs to be placed on specialty training.

The AMA’s plan includes having one-third of all medical students come from regional areas, and a mandatory 12-month training period in a rural area for trainee doctors.

La Trobe, with Charles Sturt University, has been seeking federal government funding for several years for its medical school plan.

CSU vice chancellor Andrew Vann said the AMA’s plan “males all the same arguments that we would make when talking about the Murray Darling Medical School”.

“We have always said taking regional students and training them in the regions was the best way to get them to stay,” he said.

“We think our case speaks for itself, and it is extremely cost effective.”

Despite aligning in some ways, the AMA did not support extra medical schools.

AMA president Michael Gannon said more graduates was not the answer.

“Australia does not need more medical schools or more medical school places. Workforce projections suggest that Australia is heading for an oversupply of doctors,” he said.

“Targeted initiatives to increase the size of the rural medical, nursing, and allied health workforce are what is required.”

The Australian Medical Students’ Association agreed, and described the comments from CSU as “disingenuous”.

“The medical community knows that new medical schools and more medical students are not the answer. Rural training needed at every point of the pipeline,” the AMSA tweeted.