Call for data showing which universities produce more rural doctors

NEW REPORT: Less than 18 per cent of final-year medical students intend to work in rural or regional practice after graduation. Photo: File

NEW REPORT: Less than 18 per cent of final-year medical students intend to work in rural or regional practice after graduation. Photo: File

The executive director of the proposed Murray Darling Medical School wants to know where medical graduates are working in rural and regional Australia and which universities are delivering doctors to the bush.

Orange-based Mark Burdack has reacted to the latest report from the Medical Deans of Australia and New Zealand revealing less than 18 per cent of final-year medical students intend to work in rural or regional practice after graduation.

The executive director said 18 per cent was a “poor result”, questioned the value of national data on where medical students intended to work and called for “better information” to enable country communities to plan for the future.

"It is not clear that intention data gives rural communities the best means to predict whether or not rural doctor shortages will be overcome," Mr Burdack said.

"We know that at present fewer than 10 per cent of graduates from typical metropolitan medical schools actually move into rural practice each year, so good intentions don't always translate into practice. 

"We also know that some medical students say that they intend to work rurally, but do not do so.”

Mr Burdack pointed to a recent government review of the Bonded Medical Places scheme. It revealed that some students who had committed to servicing “areas of shortage” might be using the scheme as a low-cost way of getting a medical degree and when fully qualified “buy out” their bonds.

 Mr Burdach is calling for data that  allows communities to “easily see which universities are doing a good job of addressing the rural doctor shortage”.

"While national data tells us that the number of doctors in smaller rural towns has gone up, when you look by region it shows that most of this growth has been in coastal areas, not inland," he said.

A  joint initiative of Charles Sturt University and La Trobe University, the proposed medical school would have campuses in Orange, Bendigo and Wagga Wagga.

Touted as a “simple and pragmatic solution” to the shortage of doctors in rural NSW and Victoria”, it was overlooked in this year’s federal budget.

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