The need for doctors prepared to work in regional and rural areas – and the shortage of them – are issues that will not go away.
Nor will the campaign for a rural/regional medical school where we can grow our own doctors.
The medical school issue is not complex and does not need more research and snail-pace consideration in the ranks of the federal public service and politicians.
It can and should be resolved quickly.
The studies have already been done by two regional universities, Charles Sturt (CSU) in Bathhurst and La Trobe in Victoria. They are proponents of the Murray Darling Medical School (MDMS).
They say doctors educated and trained in the regions are more likely to stay there after graduation. The universities run degree courses for other health professionals and have seen the big numbers of such graduates who remain in the regions.
The MDMS would have campuses in Bendigo, Orange and Wagga Wagga and eighty per cent of enrolments would be reserved for rural, regional and Indigenous students.
The creation of the campuses would mean increased investment and jobs in those regions, an added benefit.
CSU and La Trobe have been arguing their case for at least two years, armed with various studies of their own and others from medical groups. They show a low number of medical students in city universities ever intend practising in the regions.
CSU has said as few as 10 per cent of new medical graduates went to work in rural areas as specialists or GPs and “you simply can't service the health needs of 32 per cent of the population with only 10 per cent of the medical graduates".
The federal government had the opportunity to get the ball rolling in the past two years. It has not done so.
This week the government announced the establishment of a $10 million Rural Junior Doctor Training Innovation Fund, which could fund up to 60 intern and rural junior doctor positions. CSU welcomed it but says it is not enough.
It is hard to disagree.
The difficulty in solving the regional doctor problem (and other rural health issues) is similar to fixing regional education.
It needs action … and government commitment and funding.
Canberrra should stop diagnosing and getting endless second opinions (a stalling tactic). It should heal the patient.