03:34pm Tuesday 18 February 2020

No single solution to rural doctor shortage

Monash University’s Professor Judi Walker will facilitate a panel discussion at a Canberra policy forum on Friday, addressing how to attract more students from rural areas to study medicine.

Professor Walker is Head of the School of Rural Health at Monash and Chair of the Federation of Rural Australian Medical Educators (FRAME), the peak body for the Australian Government’s Rural Clinical Schools Program of 16 Australian universities that deliver rural medical training.

“Eight years of Rural Clinical Schools data indicate consistently that the most significant predictor of rural practice intention is the winning contribution of recruiting rural-origin students and providing them with rural clinical training and experiences to maintain their interest in rural careers,” Professor Walker said.

“Currently, at least 25 per cent of medical student intake into Australian medical schools are from rural areas. There are now over 1200 medical students a year undertaking clinical training in rural Australia which is 40 per cent of total medical student intake.”

Professor Walker said the number of domestic medical graduates was expected to rise three-fold, from 1266 in 2003 to a projected 3185 in 2015, but that the rural medical workforce was not adequate.

”Despite a growing number of rural clinical school graduates, there is a real shortage of regional-based internships and career-pathways available to these doctors after completing their medical degree,” Professor Walker said.

“Providing rural communities with an adequate healthcare workforce still poses a major challenge. Without rural postgraduate training pathways it is difficult for our rural and regional medical schools to support graduates to stay on to practice in local communities.”

Rural GP and Monash PhD candidate Dr Jenny May’s keynote presentation at the conference will explore the relationship between health outcomes and medical workforce shortages in rural Australia.

“Geographical mal-distribution of doctors remains a matter of concern with the future projected growth in medical graduates unlikely to make significant inroads under current policy settings,” Dr May said.

“The health of rural communities is in difficulty, and a concerted effort is required to address rural doctor shortages, including measures to address the complete rural medical training pipeline.”

Barriers to the implementation of new rural medical workforce policies and how these might be addressed will be the central theme of the forum, bringing together experts across various institutions.

‘Providing Rural Australians with an Adequate Medical Workforce: A Policy Forum’ will be held in Canberra this Friday 24 May and is hosted by Charles Sturt University.

Monash University.

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