Lack of internships helps keep regional doctor numbers low

THE supply of doctors in regional areas continues to lag behind the biggest cities and most remote areas of the country, a report from the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare revealed on Friday.

And that lack of doctors was in part due to a lack of intern positions in regional areas, the Australian Medical Students Association argues.

While the AIHW's Medical Workforce 2012 report showed the number of medical practitioners around the country grew by more than 16% between 2008 and 2012, it was not uniform.

The growth, the data revealed, was strongest in major cities, followed by remote or "very remote areas", with outer and inner regional areas lagging.

It also showed Australia's major cities were home to the most specialist doctors, falling by each remoteness classification until it picked up again in the very remote areas.

But AMSA, the peak body for medical students, argued the supply of both GPs and specialists was due mainly to a lack of funded internships, which students must complete before getting a qualification.

Association president Jessica Dean said there was "still an internship crisis", with many students forced overseas to continue their training.

"The system is in failure. We are training doctors here in Australia and then sending them away overseas, while importing overseas trained doctors to fill the gaps," she said.

"Health Workforce Australia has projected that that Australia will have shortfall of 2700 doctors by 2025, yet we are forcing Australian graduates each year to continue their career on foreign shores."

The AIHW report also found just two-thirds of medical practitioners working in Australia actually got their qualification domestically.

Ms Dean said while the current federal government had promised 100 new internships, there remained a need for a national agreement to fully fund internships for all graduates.
 


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