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Extending the medical workforce debate: let’s talk about self-sufficiency

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To the Editor: Until recently, Australian medical workforce planning has seemed a rather ad-hoc affair. We have self-induced an undersupply of doctors (having actually reduced student numbers in the mid 1990s,1 taken a decade to increase production, and now have crashed into entirely foreseeable undersupply of intern placements). The establishment of Health Workforce Australia has promulgated some much needed detailed, future-focused planning, although the fragmented data landscape has clearly proved challenging.24

Australia’s medical workforce “shortage”, which is worse in rural areas because of maldistribution, has resulted in a great reliance on international medical graduates. We question whether this reliance on overseas-trained doctors is a de facto or “silent” policy, or a reactive response to the perceived shortfall in the national health workforce.

Globally, there is currently an alarming shortage of skilled health care workers, particularly in developing countries. A significant contributor to this shortfall is the reliance of developed countries on overseas-trained health care workers to meet their workforce…