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We must guarantee training places for all

By | Wednesday, February 24th, 2010
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International medical students must be guaranteed training places in the Australian hospital system after they graduate, Australia’s peak medical faculty body said today.

‘The one-year intern training by any new graduate is, in essence, an extension of their university course, where they put into practice years of study,’ said Professor Jim Angus, the President of the Medical Deans of Australia and New Zealand.

‘The intern year is essential for registration as a doctor and must be guaranteed to all.’

Professor Angus said an increase in the number of graduates in coming years was not being matched by an increase in the number of training places (which are usually in public hospitals) and warned against any push to limit places to domestic graduates.

‘To deny training places to international students is likely to sharply reduce the number of students who want to study in Australia,’ Professor Angus said.

‘This in turn would reduce the diversity of the student population and the cultural richness they contribute – and it would potentially threaten the viability of some university courses.

‘Our international students are full fee-paying. Their contributions support our universities and enable us to provide a significantly better education for local students.’

Professor Angus said a significant proportion of international students – as many as 70 per cent in some universities – indicated they wanted to continue working in Australia after becoming fully qualified.

‘Any push to deny proper intern training for those schooled in Australia makes no sense whatsoever, particularly at a time when we are importing doctors that often require retraining and assessment to fill workforce shortfalls.

‘There is an urgent need for governments to act to ensure there are enough training places for all our medical students, including those from overseas. This is now a matter of priority, before it both affects Australia’s universities and overall health system.’

More information, Jim Angus, (03) 8344 5894

Letter to the Editor

By | Monday, February 1st, 2010
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Adam Cresswell and Matthew Franklin’s front-page report (Training fails to prepare new doctors, 1 February) highlights the importance of high-quality training for newly graduated medical students, but does not fully acknowledge the impact of increasing student numbers without a corresponding increase in training facilities.

Australia is currently seeing its biggest ever growth in new doctors. In 2006, there were 1,335 medical graduates (not including international students), and this number is set to more than double to 3,108 by 2014.

If you double the size of any industry over a few years it will create headaches, and one of the most pressing is ensuring quality, and sufficient of training places.

We need to look at not only additional training places in the traditional teaching hospitals, but look at training in new settings, including private hospitals, and expanding the training that young doctors can do in general practice.

This needs to be urgently addressed at state and federal level if we are to maintain our world-class medical standards.

Australia now has 18 universities that teach medical students and, each year, a new cohort of graduates enters the workforce as interns. This is where they spend their first year as doctors, under close supervision from experienced clinicians, consolidating their skills in the practical aspects of medicine.

This intern year is crucial to a doctor’s development. It is when years of study is translated into the practical application of medicine, from treating wounds and reading x-rays to dealing with patients and preparing medication doses.

Today, most medical schools have pre-internship programs that help bridge the gap from medical school to internship. But ensuring there are adequate places are vital as it can take 14 years to train a qualified, independent doctor, including medical school, internship, residency and specialist training.

Professor James Angus
President, Medical Deans Australia and New Zealand Inc
1 February, 2010

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