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Budget 2018: AMSA 2018 Budget health-check: medical students disappointed to see rural health investment wasted on a new medical school



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Media release: AMSA 2018 Budget health-check Wednesday May 9th

Medical students disappointed to see rural health investment wasted on a new medical school

With the release of the Federal Budget, the Australian Medical Students’ Association (AMSA) welcomes the Federal Government's refusal to fund the full Murray-Darling Medical School proposal. However, AMSA is deeply disappointed with the announcement of one new medical school based in Orange.

AMSA President Alex Farrell said: “We are glad to see the Government investing in Rural Clinical Schools that already exist in Dubbo, Wagga Wagga, Shepparton and Bendigo. These are not new medical schools, they are investments in existing programs that are working. But we are baffled by the decision to fund yet another new school in Orange.

“Orange already hosts a Rural Clinical School that is highly successful in creating graduates who return to Orange for intern year.

“Last year Orange had eight times the number of applicants for internship positions that available spots. Rural interest at a student level is not an issue in this area.

“This is an extravagant amount of money to spend recreating something that already exists, and increasing total student numbers in the process. Doctors from the hospital have called for funding positions for doctors in training, not more medical students.”

The Federal Government announced that the Charles Sturt University and Western Sydney University joint school in Orange will not receive new federally funded Commonwealth Supported Places (CSPs) but will be allocated CSPs from existing medical schools. The schools that lose Government-funded places will be allowed to increase full-fee places to compensate.

“Allowing universities to swap CSPs for full fee international student places is essentially buying off universities, in order to build another unnecessary school,” Ms Farrell said.

“We will see an increase in the already-bursting pool of graduates; universities who lose CSP places will supplement their revenue by recruiting up to 60 international students.

“The total number of medical students in Australia will rise. This school will not address the maldistribution of doctors in the country, it will only worsen the internship bottleneck and leave more graduates without a job on graduation.”

AMSA is pleased to welcome some positive initiatives in the Budget, such as an increased number of rural GP placements for junior doctors. However, the substantial investment into medical schools misses the target.

“AMSA is disappointed to see a missed opportunity to really tackle the vocational training issues,” Ms Farrell said.

“Looking at the Stronger Rural Health Strategy as a whole, the funding allocation decisions have to be questioned. Choosing to fund GP training spots earmarked for a future National Rural Generalist Program is a good investment. But to spend $100 million on undergraduate medical education, but only invest in 100 vocational training positions - well, we think the money could be better spent.

“The junior doctors we currently have cannot train in rural areas - that is the problem that needed to be fixed.”

“Specialist training is the point at which it is most difficult to keep junior doctors rural, with very few places based in the country. This is the stage when young doctors are most likely to settle down, and yet the status quo is that almost all are forced to complete those five to seven years of training in the city. We would have liked to see more money spent here, in rural vocational training.”

Along with other more positive Budget outcomes such as a strong focus on mental health, AMSA applauds the announcement of changes to the Bonded Medical Schemes.

While most details are yet to come, the package promises to simplify the regulations and give graduates greater flexibility, in what are currently onerous and extremely restrictive programs.

“Currently, some doctors trapped in these schemes have to work for six consecutive years in a rural location, 16 years after they first started medical school and signed the contract, with severe penalties for any breach,” Ms Farrell said.

“For the thousands of students and doctors currently on these programs, this Budget represents a commitment to making rural placements positive experiences rather than coercive. All the evidence shows that enjoyable rural experiences are the ones most likely to lead to a lifetime of rural practice, and that is what we should be aspiring to create.”

Media Contact: Joel Selby Email: pro@amsa.org.au Phone: 0406919800