We all want Doctors for Rural Communities, but will the proposed Murray Darling Medical School help?

Murray Darling Medical SchoolThe latest wave of medical student opposition for the proposed Murray Darling Medical School (MDMS), a joint program by Charles Sturt University and La Trobe University has been featured in Wagga Wagga local newspaper The Daily Advertiser.

The opposition comes as the Australian Medical Students’ Association (AMSA) has launched its proposal “Doctors for Rural Communities” which calls for the provision of more specialty training positions in regional centres rather than the funding of new medical schools.

Elise Buisson, President of AMSA says that, “Medical graduate numbers have more than doubled in the past decade from 1,503 in 2004 to 3700 in 2015, yet the issue of medical workforce maldistribution for rural areas still persists. It is time to train more young doctors in the bush to improve the health outcomes of Australia’s rural communities.”

The Doctors for Rural Communities’ proposal outlines the allocation of $46 million to enable 306 doctors to undertake 12 months of their training, or 61 doctors to complete 5 years of their training in regional, rural and remote Australia. AMSA says that $46 million is roughly the cost of establishing a new medical school.

“We lose many young rural doctors to the city because they are forced to move there in order to complete their training programs, which can be five years or more. This proposal would allow them to stay” said Ms Buisson.

Christopher Lemon

Christopher Lemon

Christopher Lemon, New South Wales Medical Students’ Council Chair says that “the problem rural communities’ face is a lack of doctors, not a lack of medical students. Restructuring the medical school presence in rural communities is not the best strategy for providing rural communities what they really need. Fund the rest of the training pipeline to help give the health care that’s needed right now, and continue to support the medical schools that are already establishing and dedicated to bringing more doctors to the country.”

Final year medical student Skye Kinder was also recently featured in a publication from her home town of Bendigo. She states:

“Discussion of the rural health workforce continues to centre around this idea that we don’t have enough doctors with a passion for the country, that we don’t have enough people like me in the system. But since 2005 the number of medical students in Australia has doubled, and there are more people like me graduating than ever before.

The real issue now is not that we aren’t here, but rather that the down-stream system doesn’t have the capacity to support many of us once we graduate from university. Unless there is a continued increase in funding for vocational training, most of us will not be able to get jobs in the country and some of us won’t be able to get jobs at all.”

Bendigo panoramic

Bendigo, Victoria

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Image: Tony Bowden – flickr

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