Friday 17 September 2010
New rigorous standards being introduced to ensure foreign trained doctors meet Australian standards could result in further doctor shortages in regional Western Australia, Curtin University Pro Vice-Chancellor of Health Sciences Professor Jill Downie said today.
Professor Downie said many foreign GPs do not meet the new Australian standards and the current shortage of Australian trained GPs in regional WA meant the state was already the highest employer of overseas trained doctors (OTDs) in the nation at 52 per cent.
“The change in standards will make it financially unviable for many rural medical services to attract doctors, as many of the foreign trained doctors who supplement their work as a GP with time spent servicing the local hospital, are now unable to meet the required Australian standards,” Professor Downie said.
With more than 70 GP positions currently unable to be filled in regional WA, Professor Downie said there needs to be a long term solution to the problem.
“Patient safety and quality of care are rightly being addressed by the WA Country Health Service to align foreign doctors with Australian standards, but the flip-side is we could see further doctor shortages unless we increase the number of Australian trained doctors to service regional areas.”
Professor Downie said Curtin’s proposal for a new medical school was a step in the right direction towards alleviating WA’s over-reliance on OTDs. First year medical students could study at a regional campus of their choice as part of the introduction of the University’s interprofessional common-core first year for all health science students.
“By increasing the number of Australian trained doctors it will make it easier for regional medical services to offer financially attractive positions to city-based doctors,” Professor Downie said.
“Local students may also return to the regions where they initially did their first year once they have completed their studies in the city.
“WA should look at meeting growing challenges such as regional doctor shortages by investing in the training of future doctors. We need doctors who can practise in regional areas fulfilling a variety of roles and collaborating with other health professionals in the area to improve patient care.”