Review of medical places welcomed

La Trobe University Vice-Chancellor Professor John Dewar and Charles Sturt University (CSU) Vice-Chancellor Professor Andrew Vann have both welcomed the Federal Government assessment of medical school places, announced today by Assistant Minister for Rural Health Dr David Gillespie.

“This assessment provides an exciting opportunity for the government to better target support of regional and rural clinical training, including attracting and retaining medical graduates to meet the workforce needs of our regions,” Professor Dewar said.

“Our medical school proposal is part of the solution to providing better medical services for people living in rural and regional areas.”

“The evidence is very clear – the current system is simply not working. There are not enough locally trained doctors graduating from medical schools who end up living and working in rural and regional areas of Australia,” Professor Vann said.

“Published research shows less than ten per cent of Australian medical graduates from typical metropolitan medical schools actually end up working in rural practice when they have completed their medical training.

“By stark comparison, 76 per cent of graduates from Australia’s only medical school located in an outer regional area - James Cook University - intend to practice outside capital cities. We want to create the same opportunity for communities in regional Victoria and New South Wales to have access to qualified medical professionals,” he said.

La Trobe and CSU are currently the largest providers of allied health training in regional Victoria and New South Wales, with a wide range of courses including, dentistry, pharmacy and paramedicine.

The two universities have submitted a proposal to the Federal Government seeking approval to operate a new joint rural medical school – the Murray Darling Medical School (MDMS) – with campuses in Orange, Bendigo and Wagga Wagga, and Rural Medical Training Centres in 16 other rural and regional centres. The sole mission of the MDMS is to grow the rural and remote medical workforce, and improve rural and regional health outcomes.

Under the proposal, the school will recruit students from the regions, educate them in the regions and thus ensure they will graduate in the regions, with the vast majority then choosing to stay and work in the regions.

A guaranteed 80 per cent of medical student places at the MDMS would be allocated to genuinely remote, rural, regional and Indigenous students – making it the only medical school in Australia to do.

“We have very clear evidence that regional education leads to regional employment – for example, two thirds of the dentists trained at our Bendigo Campus graduate to work in a regional or rural setting,” Professor Dewar said.

In addition – a rural student is 2.5 times more likely to work in rural practice. If they undertake  extended periods of training in a rural area, that outcome increases – they are then four times more likely to work in rural practice.

Professor Dewar said while it was important to look at high quality postgraduate training in rural areas, it was also crucial to ensure medical undergraduate medical places were in place to support regional communities.

“We recognise and understand the importance of post graduate training, but it is only part of the solution. We need to ensure a strong flow of undergraduate students who are trained in, and want to work in the regions.

“Building a pipeline of regionally trained undergraduate students who can then undertake high quality postgraduate training in our regions is a tried and tested pathway to addressing the regional and rural doctor shortages this assessment process is designed to address.”

Media contact;  La Trobe University Tim Mitchell 0437457780

Charles Sturt University 0429217026