James Cook University’s ability to train and keep GPs and medical specialists in regional and remote settings has been given a big boost.
As part of the Federal Government’s Rural Health Multidisciplinary Training program $54.4 million has been allocated over 2016-17 to 2018-19 for new Regional Training Hubs and University Departments of Rural Health.
JCU will operate three of the new Regional Training Hubs – in North, Western and Far North Queensland.
Professor Richard Murray, Dean of JCU’s College of Medicine and Dentistry, said the investment will allow JCU to be more involved in training the specialist doctors that regional and remote communities need.
"The number of graduating doctors in Australia has almost tripled over the past 15 years, yet what we have seen is graduates piling up in the cities, looking for city-based specialist training jobs,” Professor Murray said.
“The regions are still left to rely on importing doctors from overseas.
“This announcement is a welcome first step towards a system that trains specialist doctors and GPs where they are most needed.
Professor Murray said it was time for Commonwealth, state and territory governments to commit to a revolution in the further training of medical graduates.
“We need a system that sees much more specialist training based in regional Australia, with a city rotation only as needed,” he said.
Professor Murray said JCU had long been a national leader and advocate of training medical graduates for work in regional Australia.
“This announcement shows that Assistant Minister for Health Dr David Gillespie is listening to the arguments we have been making over the last decade,” he said.
Professor Sabina Knight, Director of JCU’s Mount Isa Centre for Rural & Remote Health, said the funding would enhance rural health.
“We do a lot of work encouraging students to stay and work in rural and remote areas, but if they can’t get an internship in a regional hospital such as Mount Isa, then they have to go to a city for training and often end up disappearing into metropolitan areas,” Professor Knight said.
Professor Knight said the initiative fills in a crucial gap in the current system.
“This was the missing bit between having early year medical students and turning out medical specialists in a rural or remote area. We will have a better pathway now and a much better ability to follow through on their training,” she said.
Professor Murray welcomed the funding as a valuable first step, but said the program would be even more fruitful if states and territories now came on board with their support.