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AMA, AMSA win victory to block MD cash-cow

Cash-strapped universities have been blocked from enrolling domestic full fee paying students in Doctor of Medicine degrees following warnings by the AMA and the Australian Medical Students’ Association the move could undermine efforts to resolve the medical internship crisis. Tertiary Education Minister, Senator Chris Evans, has set strict conditions on Commonwealth funding for Doctor of Medicine (MD) programs after the AMA and AMSA raised concerns that the plans of several universities to replace undergraduate medical degrees with MD programs could exacerbate the nation’s critical shortfall of intern and clinical training places, and compromise equity of access to medical studies, if they included offering full fee paying places to domestic students.

03 Dec 2012

Cash-strapped universities have been blocked from enrolling domestic full fee paying students in Doctor of Medicine degrees following warnings by the AMA and the Australian Medical Students’ Association the move could undermine efforts to resolve the medical internship crisis.

Tertiary Education Minister, Senator Chris Evans, has set strict conditions on Commonwealth funding for Doctor of Medicine (MD) programs after the AMA and AMSA raised concerns that the plans of several universities to replace undergraduate medical degrees with MD programs could exacerbate the nation’s critical shortfall of intern and clinical training places, and compromise equity of access to medical studies, if they included offering full fee paying places to domestic students.

Senator Evans has acted on the warnings from the AMA and AMSA to advise that the Government will only approve the transfer of Commonwealth funded places to MD programs if:

  • there is no net increase in the number of medical graduates;
  • that no domestic full fee paying students are enrolled in MD programs;
  • that the MD programs offered are of appropriate standard; and
  • the Government does not incur any extra costs.

Chair of the AMA’s Doctors in Training Committee, Dr Will Milford, said the Minister’s instruction to the universities was an “excellent outcome”.

Dr Milford said Senator Evans had gone “a long way” to addressing concerns that the shift to MD programs had opened a loophole allowing universities to offer unlimited full fee paying places to domestic students.

He said that without the Government’s action there would have been a real risk that the nation’s serious shortfall of intern and clinical training places – which has left 64 medical graduates from the class of 2012 in limbo – would become much worse.

“The re-introduction of domestic full fee paying places in such an environment would clearly compound this situation,” Dr Milford said.

He said the criteria for MD program funding set out by Senator Evans also went some way to allay concerns that universities might try to simply rebadge their undergraduate medical degrees as Masters programs rather than develop genuine Masters-level courses with a significant research component.

AMSA President, James Churchill, said the Government’s move was “a win for equity and access to medical education, and a significant win for the collective efforts of AMSA and the AMA”.

Mr Churchill said that, ideally, all domestic full fee paying places would be banned, but Senator Evans’s decision was “a big step in the right direction”.

The AMSA President said that although the move, by itself, would not solve the internship crisis, it meant that the proliferation of MD courses would not undermine attempts to achieve coordination between the medical education and training pipelines.

In a letter to AMA President, Dr Steve Hambleton, informing him of the decision, the Department of Industry, Innovation, Science, Research and Tertiary Education indicated the internship crisis had been a key consideration in imposing strict conditions on the implementation of MD programs.

“These arrangements have been developed…in the context of an unprecedented increase in domestic medical graduates, which is placing significant demands on existing clinical and intern training systems,” the Department’s Director of Higher Education Funding Policy, Julie Birmingham, wrote. “They are designed to ensure that the number of domestic medical graduates does not further increase until the medical system has the capacity to cater for the intern and clinical training requirements associated with the recent expansion in medical schools.”

AR


Published: 03 Dec 2012