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New medical school places undermined by bad policy

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The AMA has welcomed the Federal Government’s commitment to 50 medical school places at the Sunshine Coast University Hospital, but AMA President Dr Michael Gannon said the policy surrounding the move needed rethinking.

Dr Gannon said he was pleased the impasse over medical school places on the Sunshine Coast had been resolved, with a commitment to 50 Commonwealth Supported Places (CSP) announced at the end of August, but good intention had been undermined by bad policy.

He said the AMA has supported the establishment of the new medical school, provided total national medical student numbers do not increase.

“We welcome the fact that the Government has partly listened to our arguments, with the overall number of CSP medical school places across the country remaining unchanged,” Dr Gannon said.

“The 50 CSP places on the Sunshine Coast have been reallocated from other medical schools.

“However, the AMA understands that, as part of the negotiations with other medical schools, the Commonwealth has been forced to agree to support the recruitment of additional international full fee paying medical students at those universities that have given up places.”

The move comes on top of the decision by Macquarie University to establish a new $250,000 medical degree course – a decision that prices a medical degree out of reach for many of Australia’s best and brightest students.

The AMA insists the policy focus must be on the mal-distribution of doctors and shortages in particular specialty areas, not supporting universities to boost their bottom line.

“We are graduating record numbers of medical students, putting us well above the OECD average,” Dr Gannon said.

“But we are not providing enough prevocational and specialist training places for our medical graduates. Next year, we face a shortage of 569 first year advanced specialist training places.

“We must address community need by supporting extra prevocational and vocational training places, otherwise access to medical care will continue to be a problem in many parts of the country.”

Dr Gannon said the downside of the Sunshine Coast Medical School announcement was that it was unfortunately another example of where horse trading has replaced good medical workforce planning and policy.

“The Government needs to take a much tougher approach to full fee paying medical school places, both for domestic and international students,” he said.

“Working with the AMA and other groups will ensure that policy settings genuinely tackle the medical workforce problems we now face.”