Budget 2015 overlooks rural health care

La Trobe University Vice-Chancellor Professor John Dewar and Charles Sturt University (CSU) Vice-Chancellor Professor Andy Vann have expressed disappointment the Murray Darling Medical School (MDMS) initiative was again overlooked in the 2015 budget.

The MDMS would provide undergraduate medical training from campuses in Bendigo, Orange, and Wagga Wagga, and reserve 80 per cent of enrolments for rural, regional and Indigenous students. 

The Vice-Chancellors said recent evidence showed the current training arrangements were failing rural and regional communities, and the Government had missed the opportunity to improve the supply of GPs and specialists in rural and regional Australia.   

Professor Dewar said the only way to improve the supply of health services in rural and regional communities was to empower students from those communities to train and practice in those areas themselves.   

"The Murray Darling Medical School doesn't just address one or two elements of the rural medical pipeline, it is an integrated package of initiatives based on successful rural recruitment and retention models in Australia and around the world," Professor Dewar said. 

"The MDMS will work with local schools to grow aspiration and capacity for a medical and health career. The MDMS will guarantee 80 per cent of enrolments from rural and Indigenous backgrounds, and will educate students in the very rural and regional communities where the shortage exists, addressing the core health needs of those areas. 

"More than 70 per cent of La Trobe University's and Charles Sturt University's rural health graduates commence employment in rural areas after graduating. 

 "We need a range of strategies to address the chronic disease of rural doctor shortages, incorporating the best of existing approaches as well as new and innovative solutions like the Murray Darling Medical School."

Professor Vann said rural areas were in desperate need of more doctors.

"Only last month, Rural Health Workforce Australia reported that 'less than 5 per cent of [Australian medical] graduates intend to practise in rural areas [as GPs]'," Professor Vann said. 

"The COAG Health Council also noted that as few as 17 per cent of all medical graduates in their final years expressed an interest in a rural medical career as a specialist or GP.  This is despite millions of dollars spent over the last decade to increase medical student numbers and substantially grow the pipeline of medical students wanting to work in rural practice. 

"Available evidence suggests that as few as 10 per cent of new medical graduates actually go on to work in rural areas as rural specialists or GPs after completing postgraduate training. 

"You simply can't service the health needs of 32 per cent of the population with only 10 per cent of the medical graduates. This has real implications for economic and social sustainability in rural and regional areas." 

La Trobe University and CSU will continue engagement with the government, as well as regional communities, health service providers and doctors about evidence-based solutions to rural medical workforce shortages, and towards the delivery of the Murray Darling Medical School in Bendigo, Orange and Wagga Wagga. 

Further information about the Murray Darling Medical School initiative can be obtained at www.mdms.edu.au

Media note:  Mr Mark Burdack, Executive Director Murray Darling Medical School, is available for further comment.  Mobile: 0418 974 988 


Media contact

Tim Mitchell, Media and Communications Director

Ph: 9479 5246 | mobile: 0437 457 780 | email: t.mitchell@latrobe.edu.au