While building extra rural medical schools sounds enticing in getting more doctors to the bush, more investment is really needed in meeting the demand for rural training places by young doctors who have graduated from university and are now ready for the next stage in their medical training journey.
There are now more than enough young doctors graduating from our existing rural medical schools to meet the need for more doctors in the bush, provided we can keep them engaged in rural medicine once they leave the university quadrangle.
The main problem is that we are losing too many of these newly-minted doctors to the cities once they have graduated, because there aren’t currently enough opportunities in rural communities for them to undertake their intern year, or post-graduate or advanced skills training.
Many graduates of our existing rural medical schools desperately want to stay in rural locations to undertake the next stage of their training, but they can’t find the training places or rotation opportunities they need.
The demand for existing places is too high.
Additional investment is not needed to pump extra medical students through more rural medical schools, only to have them move to urban settings once they graduate because that’s the only place they can find intern and post-graduate training opportunities.
Once this happens, many potential rural doctors – who would otherwise happily have stayed in the bush – are lost to the city forever.
Dr Ewan McPhee
Rural Doctors Association of Australia president