Students have been warning for years that, without drastic action, the rapid expansion of student numbers over the past decade would outstrip the training capacity of the Australian health system.
So reports of final-year medical students around the country missing out on intern positions should come as no surprise to anyone with an interest in medical education.
In New South Wales, no locally trained international student received an offer in the first or second round of allocations.
After the release of fourth round offers on Friday, roughly 30 of the 120 international students in their final year at NSW medical schools had received an offer in this state. This is an appalling result.
Similar reports have been echoed around the country. International students have been scrambling for positions in any state and territory they can find.
In Tasmania, domestic students are being forced onto the mainland by a state government that does not want to take responsibility for training its own graduates.
I am particularly concerned that in the midst of this unfolding crisis, Curtin University continues to push ahead with plans to introduce a third medical school in Western Australia.
Another medical school would put even more pressure on the health system to provide training positions. Curtin’s perseverance suggests it is motivated by a desire to raise its own profile rather than address a workforce shortage.
People seem to forget that behind the figures and statistics there are real people who are scared that despite passing their exams and forking out over $200,000, they will be left with a huge debt and a useless degree.
Medical students want an internship guarantee for all graduates who train in Australia and wish to serve the long-term needs of the community, regardless of whether or not they are international students.
That said, we do not want a government blank cheque to allow universities to increase student numbers indefinitely.
We want regulation to ensure that the number of students entering medical schools can be accommodated by the health system and we want all current students to receive an immediate interim guarantee of intern training while this mess is being fixed.
We are not asking for a lot, just a fair go.
Jon Noonan is a fourth year medical student at the Sydney Medical School. He is the President of the Sydney University Medical Society and has co-authored several Australian Medical Students’ Association policies on internships and international students. He plans to pursue a career in ophthalmology.
Posted 30 August 2010