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Medical Students say Budget missed opportunity for workforce investment

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The Australian Medical Students’ Association (AMSA) welcomes certain elements of the federal budget, but is concerned by the Government’s lack of investment in medical education.

While the Budget will continue to fund the Specialist Training Program and support rural background recruitment, cuts to funding will impact quality of medical education.

AMSA President Rob Thomas said he was pleased to see there will be no increases in medical student places from new medical schools, and also that funding will continue for the Commonwealth Medical Internships Program.

“However, this Budget was a real opportunity for the Government to contribute to the future health workforce by increasing specialist training in regional and rural areas and ensuring medical schools are adequately funded,” he said.

“AMSA has called for more places in the Specialist Training Program to be delivered in rural and regional areas, as this is required to ensure a sustainable rural medical workforce.

“The Budget delivers no net increase overall, and a marginally increased proportion from 39 per cent rural places currently to 45 per cent by 2021.

“This means that those who want to work rurally will continue to have to undertake the majority of their training in metropolitan areas, decreasing the likelihood that they will be rural doctors in the long-term.”

Mr Thomas said AMSA was relieved university fee deregulation is off the table, but that the higher education reform announcement posed new concerns.

“According to the Medical Deans of Australia and New Zealand, funding for medical education falls short by $23,500 per student per year. This discrepancy places major strains on the training of future doctors in Australia,” he said.

“By reducing Commonwealth base funding for medical education by 2.5 per cent in each of 2018 and 2019, this figure will only expand, impacting the quality of basic medical education.”

AMSA welcomes the Government’s commitment of $5 million over the next two years to Orygen, the National Centre of Excellence in Youth Mental Health, and a further $10 million to the Black Dog Institute and Sunshine Coast Mind and Neuroscience.

“With medical students facing a disproportionate burden of mental illness, the Government’s increased funding for mental health research is to be applauded,” Mr Thomas said

“We are hopeful that a proportion of this funding will be devoted to the research of university student mental health.”

Chris Johnson