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States fail doctors and communities: AMA

The career prospects of almost 100 medical graduates have been thrown into doubt by the refusal of State and Territory governments to help make up a critical shortfall in intern places. The Commonwealth has committed to provide a one-off injection of funding for an extra 100 medical intern places for 2013 after it was confirmed there was a national shortage of 182 internships for graduates.

15 Oct 2012

The career prospects of almost 100 medical graduates have been thrown into doubt by the refusal of State and Territory governments to help make up a critical shortfall in intern places.

The Commonwealth has committed to provide a one-off injection of funding for an extra 100 medical intern places for 2013 after it was confirmed there was a national shortage of 182 internships for graduates.

But the nation’s State and Territory governments have refused to pay for the training of the remaining 82 graduates, drawing condemnation from AMA President Dr Steve Hambleton.

“No intern place, no medical career – it’s as simple as that,” the AMA President said.

“It is disgraceful that a funding blame game could threaten the careers of these young doctors and deny needy people the quality health care they deserve,” Dr Hambleton said. “At a time when many communities are crying out for locally-trained doctors, it is unbelievable that a number of our State and Territory governments are refusing to contribute to the full training of the next generation of Australian doctors.”

There have been long-standing warnings that medical internship places were failing to keep pace with the recent rapid expansion in medical student numbers.

Medical training is a shared responsibility of the Federal, State and Territory governments, and when it became clear last month that almost 200 graduates were set to miss out on a vital internship place, the Commonwealth stepped in with an offer to pay for an additional 100 places, and called on the next tier of government to fund the remaining 82 places.

“The Commonwealth has acted in good faith to find funding for 100 of the remaining 182 places needed to ensure all our graduates can complete their training,” Dr Hambleton said. “It is now up to the states to come good on their side of the bargain.

“We are talking about a few million dollars per State – a small price to pay for a huge dividend to people in need of quality medical services.

“The states must do the right thing – chip in and finalise the agreement with the Commonwealth immediately.”

The AMA President said the failure to provide adequate internship places, which are needed to complete the training of future doctors, potentially wasted the large investment already made by taxpayers in educating medical graduates, and denied Australia the locally-trained doctors it urgently needed.

“If allowed to complete their training, these doctors will work in public hospitals or private practice in communities in all states and territories, some in areas of high need,” Dr Hambleton said, urging governments at all levels to agree on a solution to the problem, which is only likely to get worse in 2014 and beyond.

“We would like to see a long-term national solution so we can get as many of these Australian-trained doctors into the system as possible,” he said.

AR


Published: 15 Oct 2012