John Hill: Prevent the loss of Australian-trained doctors
Currently, we are at the forefront of a wave of new medical graduates in Australia. Australia desperately needs these graduates to be adequately trained in a range of specialties in order to prepare for an aging population. According to health workforce Australia, by 2025 Australia will have a doctor shortage amounting to almost 3000.
Under the Howard Government in 2004, there was an increase in the number of Medical students trained within Australia. Unfortunately, the lack of one single Government body being responsible for Health and Medical training and funding across Australia has resulted in a health system that has not been prepared to deal with the increased numbers of graduates. As a result of this, there will be many inadequately trained doctors, who will be unable to fulfill both the specialist and general practice shortages across Australia – which are only going to escalate as the population ages. This increase in medical students without subsequent planning reflects a lack of understanding and foresight about the rigorous training a doctor must undergo to become qualified and skilled in their field.
To provide you with an idea on the numbers, there was a 69.2% increase in medical graduates between 2006 and 2010. By 2016, this is projected to be a 143.1% increase on the number of graduates in 2006. The health system is currently at capacity in training these graduates at internship, residency and registrar (specialist training) levels. It takes close to 15 years (and sometimes more) from the time of starting Medical school to becoming a qualified specialist. If the cut in the health budget goes ahead, and if planning for these doctors does not begin now, the Australian health system will NOT cope with the aging population in the future.
Currently, the state and federal government are fighting over the responsibility of first year postgraduate training of 182 International medical students who have completed their Medical training within the Australian health system. The loss of these students is the beginning of many in a health system, which imports overseas trained doctors because it cannot sustain itself. These students want to stay in Australia, and are willing to help fill rural shortages, yet the Government is prepared to turn its back on them.
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