The Australian | 2 October 2012
The Coalition states appear unlikely to accept an 11th-hour deal to resolve a shortage in medical intern places, despite the federal government’s offer to fund most of the shortfall. A telephone hook-up of health ministers on 2 October is expected to discuss the commonwealth’s proposal to pay $10 million for up to 100 of an estimated 180 new places, so long as the states fund the rest. But Western Australia says the shortage is an east coast problem, while NSW and Victoria say Canberra should fund all the new places.
NSW and Victoria argue that COAG agreements in 2006 and 2008 oblige the commonwealth to pay for training places in private hospitals and clinics. Most of the new places are likely to be in the private sector, with public hospitals stretched close to capacity. NSW and Queensland also say Canberra has a responsibility to cover the clinical training costs of international students, who were overlooked in the COAG
The shortage has caused anxiety among international medical students, many of them Canadians who pay $200,000 or more in fees and cannot practise or continue their training until they complete the postgraduate internships.
The issue threatens to derail a potential supply of doctors who are urgently needed, particularly in regional areas, while damaging the credibility of Australian medical degrees.
Medical Deans president Justin Beilby says the new placements are a shared responsibility.
The offer from the commonwealth is very logical (and) I just hope the states come to the party. These are well-trained students who we need for our future workforce. After short-term pain we get a long-term gain of people who want to stay.
Similarly, the Australian Medical Association says policy makers have the right combination of measures – proper planning, extra funding and the involvement of private hospitals – to resolve the problem long-term. But first they have to deal with a short-term bulge in numbers caused by big increases in medical student enrolments in the middle of last decade.