The University of Sydney’s School of Rural Health in Dubbo and Orange is churning out wannabe rural doctors whose ambitions can be hampered by insufficient intern positions in country hospitals, reports Professor Arthur Conigrave.
The university’s Dean of Medicine, Professor Conigrave hinted at the problem when he visited Dubbo in April to hear federal Assistant Minister for Health Dr David Gillespie announce that the School of Rural Health would begin offering specialist training as one of 26 new training hubs in Australia.
On April 13 Professor Conigrave said the most important factor in ensuring that rural medical workforce needs were met and sustained was the availability of a comprehensive and adequately-supported rural training “pipeline”. “This must enable students interested in a rural career not only to obtain intern and residency posts, but also to progress through postgraduate specialty training, including rural generalist training, in appropriate rural and regional centres,” he said.
This week the professor said the university was “doing very well in priming the pipeline for the training of rural doctors”. He said at the end of this year almost 1000 medical students would have undertaken extended training placements at the School of Rural Health in Dubbo and Orange, and the university’s Departments of Rural Health at Broken Hill and Lismore. “Many more new medical graduates are now trying to get jobs in rural hospitals as interns,” Professor Conigrave said. “In fact, there are now significantly more applicants for these critical rural junior hospital training jobs than there are jobs available.”
Professor Conigrave said the university had a more than 20-year history of training medical students in rural NSW. “Rural training experience increases the likelihood that doctors will commit to working in rural locations long term,” he said. The university reports that the School of Rural Health injects almost $7 million directly into the Dubbo and Orange economies, employs 50 people who “live locally” and engages the cities’ tradesmen and services. Indirect economic benefits come from the activities of its annual cohort of 64 students.
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