Friday, 1 April 2016

Postgrad training the key to rural doctor shortages

The three Victorian Universities who oversee education in Victorian rural medical schools have formed an important collaboration in a proposal to the Federal Government to set up regional postgraduate medical training networks across Victoria.

Lack of specialist training opportunities in rural and regional Victoria is the main cause of a shortage of doctors.

The goal of the Victorian Regional Medical Training Network (VRMTN) is to improve the distribution of doctors in regional and rural Australia by expanding rural and regional postgraduate vocational medical training.

Head of Monash Rural Health, Professor Robyn Langham, said the three universities (Monash, Deakin and Melbourne) recognised the importance of regional post graduate training.

She said rural and regional Australians continued to suffer worse health outcomes than their metropolitan counterparts.

“Many medical graduates who train in rural and regional areas wanted to remain there but rurally based postgraduate training opportunities are extremely limited,” Professor Langham said.

“After five years of study, medical students move into their intern training and then need a further two or three years of training to become competent independent practitioners. This might be in surgery, paediatrics, obstetrics or psychiatry. At present, there is limited opportunities available.

“Students are forced to return to metropolitan areas to get this specialist training and many end up staying there when we know anecdotally, they would prefer to study and live in the bush.”

Commenting on a plan by Charles Sturt and La Trobe universities to develop a new medical school in Victoria and New South Wales, Professor Langham said more medical schools was not the answer to the shortage of doctors in rural and regional areas.

“We need to focus our energies in the postgraduate training space,” she said. “This is what our students are telling us too.”

The Federal Government has already committed $150 million to set up 30 postgraduate training hubs Australia-wide but is yet to announce the locations.

“A truly collaborative approach between university and community, encompassing federal and state government responsibility should be recognised as the optimal way in which to harness limited resources to deliver more rurally trained doctors. ” she said. “This is an opportunity to set up a pathway that will ultimately have a positive impact on the health and wellbeing of people across regional Victoria.”

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