New fund prompts call for approval of Murray Darling Medical School

NOT ENOUGH: Professor Andrew Vann says "we need to do more than just grow regional medical training capacity to solve rural doctor shortages". Photo: File
NOT ENOUGH: Professor Andrew Vann says "we need to do more than just grow regional medical training capacity to solve rural doctor shortages". Photo: File

A proponent of the proposed Murray Darling Medical School (MDMS) is congratulating the federal government on its $10 million fund to boost regional training places for junior doctors but adamant that it alone cannot solve the medical workforce shortage.

"We need to significantly increase rural student enrolments in medicine, and learn from the success of rural medical schools such as James Cook University, if rural communities are to see a benefit from an expanded regional medical training program,” said Charles Sturt University (CSU) Vice-Chancellor Professor Andrew Vann.

"This reinforces the need for a Murray Darling Medical School to increase the number of rural students in medical education, and ensure that regional medical training places are being occupied by graduates who are passionate about rural practice.”

CSU and La Trobe University are pushing for approval of the MDMS that they say will “address medical workforce shortages” and be different because of strategies “focused on ensuring its graduates choose rural practice”. They have also been lobbying for more funding for regional medical training places “as part of an integrated package to address rural doctor shortages”.

Assistant Minister for Rural Health David Gillespie has announced the establishment of the $10 million Rural Junior Doctor Training Innovation Fund. Professor Vann said it would fund up to 60 intern and rural junior doctor positions, giving medical graduates a “practical understanding of working in a primary care setting”.

But he said “insufficient attention” was being paid to expanding regional undergraduate medical education.

"We know that rural medical career intention declines significantly between commencement of medical education in the cities, and graduation," Professor Vann said.

"It is essential that we are producing more rural medical graduates who actually want to work in rural Australia, at the same time as growing regional medical training capacity.

"We have all heard the stories about junior doctors coming to the bush from the cities to access high quality training, only to leave once they have finished to work in the city. Regional medical training only works if we can generate a strong supply of rural medical graduates who want to work in rural areas to occupy those training places.  This is the key gap in our current capability.”