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#interncrisis #mentalhealth #meetjess #thankyou

02 Dec 2013

Last week a friend posted on his Facebook wall, “Got a job and staying HOME in Australia, so happy!”
It amassed 125 likes within eight hours, but it wasn’t this that struck me most.
He's an international student from North America, who now joins Peter Allen in calling Australia home. Furthermore, he’s been offered a two-year contract for a job at a regional hospital 451 kilometres outside of the only place he’s ever lived in Australia (and that much farther from his family across the Pacific), and yet he’s so happy.
Reflecting for a moment, the only thing that’s truly striking is the lateness of his offer.
This job is very unlikely to be a new position; rather, it has taken four months since first round internship offers were issued on 29 July to make it to my eager “Category 4” colleague.
A more efficient and less stressful solution is the national internship application system that both AMSA and the AMA have requested, but that the Health Ministers aren’t keen to fund.
National application system or not, a harmonised priority list that allocates internships to Australian citizens and permanent residents before temporary residents would be fairer and quicker.
Right now, however, only NSW, Queensland, South Australia and the NT are playing ball. The ACT, Victoria, Tasmania and Western Australia offer some of their jobs to selected temporary residents first. Astoundingly, they mostly do so with subclass 457 visas, which the Department of Immigration and Border Control’s website says are for when a business “…cannot find an Australian citizen or permanent resident to do the skilled work.” Cannot or will not?
My friend’s description of Australia as “home” is a recurring theme among international students after four to six years of studying medicine here.
Likewise, many of these students are very happy to train in regional areas. Our communities should want to keep these “Made in Australia” doctors – yet our governments are letting them go.
The Abbott Government deserves high praise for promising to fund up to 100 internships per annum for four years but, sadly, it’s not enough: 170 valid applications were received in October.
Next year, the forecast is for an incremental 155 graduates, right when state and federal treasurers are tightening their belts and feeling sick just thinking about health.
The Commonwealth Medical Internships (CMI) initiative still hasn’t actually been funded.
It awaits approval by Cabinet while hospitals and students worry. Contracts won’t be executed until at least December, for January starts, frequently at a hospital on the other side of the country.
The Commonwealth needs to get this right much earlier next year, and integrate the CMI positions within public hospital networks to broaden experiences and mitigate the risk of creating two tiers of internship.
AMSA has also been very active this year on student mental health. I recently met with Senators Christine Milne and Penny Wright, following on from a Twitter exchange we’d had during the Federal Election.
AMSA is supporting the establishment of a “Parliamentary Friends of Youth Mental Health” group, which will have four cross-party co-chairs and plans to launch in February.
Related to this, a very proactive group of medical students is just about to issue a national survey to assess the level of training, exposure, competency and comfort of medical students relating to lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex (LGBTI) health issues. They’ll then draft an AMSA policy on the topic, which, if adopted, should make for an interesting discussion with the Medical Deans.
Social media has certainly proven its worth for us. Last week, Alex Greenwich, Member for Sydney, hosted a drinks function for influential Twitterers, and AMSA was invited.
In 2012, #interncrisis was employed particularly well, and this year we’re not just securing MP meetings over Twitter, but fostering heavy engagement with medical students on Facebook.
When we shared the link to our recent op-ed in The Sydney Morning Herald about conscientious objection to abortion (November 16), it ended up with 78 likes and 7,496 views.
Thank you very much to the AMA and its members, especially Doctors Steve Hambleton and Will Milford, for your support of AMSA and our 17,000 medical students.
My wonderful and hilarious NSW National Executive is retiring at the end of December, handing over to a Victorian and Tasmanian team that will be ably led by Jessica Dean.
Best wishes for the Christmas holidays and new year; it’s been an absolute pleasure.

Benjamin Veness is the president of the Australian Medical Students’ Association. He recently finished a Master of Public Health and, after travelling on a Churchill Fellowship, will return to final-year medicine at Sydney Medical School. Follow on Twitter @venessb

Published: 02 Dec 2013