DEANS of medical schools around Australia have backed calls by angry medical students that intern places need to be guaranteed before students begin their medical degree.
The call follows confirmation of growing fears that the imbalance between university places and hospital internships would result in hundreds of graduates being unable to qualify as doctors.
Last week, more than 100 international students in NSW, who each paid more than
$200 000 for their medical degree, were told they were unlikely to be offered internships in Australian public hospitals.
The Australian Medical Students’ Association (AMSA) wants Australian and international fee-paying students and those in state-funded places – in Queensland and South Australia – to have an intern place lined up from the word go.
AMSA President Ross Roberts-Thomson, who backed the proposal, said that would require a regulatory body, such as Health Workforce Australia, to control the number of medical students being trained.
As an interim measure, the federal government should provide extra money to the states to fund and accredit more internship places, he said.
“Your degree is effectively useless unless you get an internship,” Mr Roberts-Thomson said.
Medical Deans of Australia and New Zealand President Professor James Angus welcomed AMSA’s proposals.
“It really is very, very important that any medical student is given the opportunity (for a place) if they have paid a fee, even if it is a part-paid fee like a Commonwealth-supported place,” he said.
“The students are right to be agitated and we, as medical deans, are very, very concerned.”
A communiqué from federal and state government health ministers in February said that only Commonwealth-supported students would be guaranteed places, leaving about a quarter of medical students without certainty.
Prof Angus said the lack of places was a mess and could be addressed by using private hospitals and community clinics for internships.
“We can’t let [people in] such an important area of our workforce not complete their training. We have got such a shortage and we are bringing in 1400 international medical graduates each year.”
In a letter published in the MJA this week, AMSA called for international, state-funded and local fee-paying students at private universities to be given full and frank information about their internship prospects.
Local full fee-paying students, who make up about 6 per cent of Australia’s 14 500 medical students, and international students, who make up about 17 per cent, pay $150 000
to $290 000 for their degree.
About 2776 students are expected to graduate this year.
Med J Aust 2010; 193: 245-46.
Posted 16 August, 2010