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Independent report confirms need for more medical education

Media release

An independent report commissioned by Curtin University has confirmed there is a need to train more medical students in Western Australia to meet the needs of the growing population.

The report – entitled “WA – A Sorry State for Medical Education and Training” – is based on data that is publicly available and supports the findings of other recent reports such as the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare’s 2014 report on Australia’s medical workforce, which confirmed WA continued to have the lowest levels of doctors in Australia.

Dr Felicity Jefferies, a former executive director of the WA Country Health Service, who now works as an independent health consultant, was commissioned to produce the report.

Curtin University Acting Vice-Chancellor, Professor Colin Stirling said the report confirmed that the underlying problem for WA is an absolute shortage of doctors in critical areas.

“There is also an immediate need to ensure that those already in the training pipeline have access to appropriate postgraduate training opportunities,” Professor Stirling said.

Dr Jefferies’ report verifies that WA has:

• a current shortage of 950 doctors
• a reliance on 1,150 more overseas-trained doctors than the national average
• fewer doctors overall per head of population than the rest of Australia
• fewer General Practitioners (GPs) per head of population than the rest of Australia
• fewer medical students and doctors in training per head of population than the rest of Australia
• more overseas-trained doctors per head of population than the rest of Australia
• the highest rate of population growth in Australia. This means the disparity between WA and others states will increase even further unless addressed immediately.

The report recommends that an increase in medical student numbers should commence at an intake of 70 in 2016, rather than the proposed 100, to better enable supervision and postgraduate training and internships in 2021.

It also recommends that growth towards a larger cohort should be aligned with growth in internships and postgraduate training positions.

“In response to the report, the University proposes to commence the Curtin Medical School with a cohort of 70 students and progressively grow to meet the needs of the WA community. This will help to ensure that adequate training places can be made available as graduate numbers grow,” Professor Stirling added.

The Curtin Medical School requires approval by the Australian Government and subsequent accreditation from the Australian Medical Council.

A detailed proposal has been put before the Australian Government and includes a commitment from the University of $60 million towards establishing the Curtin Medical School in 2016.

    Notes to editor:

Interviews are available with Dr Felicity Jefferies and Curtin Acting Vice-Chancellor Professor Colin Stirling today. Media should contact Curtin Public Relations.
The full report is available by clicking HERE or contact Curtin Public Relations for a hard copy to be mailed.

    Proposed Curtin Medical School:

The proposed Curtin Medical School will be distinctive and complement the two existing postgraduate medical schools already operating in this state. It will feature:

• direct entry five-year undergraduate medical course providing students the choice to study medicine from day one at university and to graduate and enter the workforce two years earlier than the postgraduate route allows.
• focus on the unmet needs of communities such as General Practice (GPs), aged care and mental health; and the recruitment of 45 per cent of undergraduate students from rural and/or socio-economically disadvantaged communities

Dr Felicity Jefferies:

    Dr Felicity Jefferies trained as a general practitioner and worked in rural general practice, before spending five years as Director of the WA College of Rural and Remote Medicine. She became Chief Executive Officer of Rural Health West – the rural workforce agency – and prior to her retirement from the public sector last year, was Executive Director (clinical reform) of WA Country Health Services for five years. She has served on the Medical Board of WA for 10 years and was a Foundation Board Member of Health Workforce Australia.