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Addressing Western Australia’s growing doctor shortage

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Curtin University has launched doctorsforthefuture, a community campaign aimed at raising awareness of the increasing shortage of doctors in Western Australia and Curtin’s proposal for a medical school at its Bentley Campus.

The proposed medical school would increase the number of doctors available by offering the only five-year direct-entry undergraduate medicine degree available in Western Australia.

Curtin’s Vice-Chancellor Professor Jeanette Hacket said it is clear that the people of rural and regional WA need more doctors now, and in the future.

“Curtin’s proposed medical school would mean that prospective medical students could commence their path to a career as a doctor from day one, rather than needing to complete an undergraduate degree before starting their medical studies,” Professor Hacket said.

“This would result in more Western Australian-educated doctors in the workforce sooner.

“It would also mean prospective students looking for a direct-entry route into medical studies would have a local option and may be less likely to move away from Western Australia.”

Studies have shown that Western Australia is currently facing a shortfall of 100 rural doctors, and based on projections, by 2022 we could need almost 3,000 more doctors across both metropolitan and rural areas.

“We know from research that students who are educated and trained in rural areas are more likely to remain in or return to work in these regional locations,” Professor Hacket said.

To address doctor shortages in rural and regional WA, Curtin is proposing to establish a number of clinical schools in priority locations across the State.

In collaboration with industry, Curtin’s health sciences students are currently participating in team-based clinical training in Geraldton and Albany. Should the University receive approval to establish a medical school, Curtin’s medical students would join a similar program.

“We plan to produce doctors who will stay and practice medicine in priority locations, helping to ease doctor shortages in these regions,” Professor Hacket said.

The collaborative format of Curtin’s proposed medical degree would ensure the students would have a headstart on teamwork as they engaged with Australia’s first fully integrated interprofessional education curriculum.

“Curtin is leading the way in providing a team-based approach to teaching health professionals which will lead to improved patient safety and quality of care,” Professor Hacket said.

The proposed medical school’s curriculum is aligned with the key areas of need in the WA community and will have a primary care focus with an emphasis on chronic disease, aged care, mental health, Indigenous health, biomedical and clinical sciences, and population health.
Curtin’s Pro Vice-Chancellor, Faculty of Health Sciences Professor Jill Downie said clinical placements are also being negotiated with major healthcare providers in WA.

“We have plans for alternative clinical placements for the training of our medical students in the aged care arena where there are more than 15,000 residential healthcare beds,” Professor Downie said.

“Should the medical school be approved, Curtin will immediately begin the process of accreditation with the Australian Medical Council (AMC).”

If approval is gained by mid-2012, the first graduates of Curtin’s AMC-accredited degree would enter the workforce in 2019.

To register support for the campaign visit

WA's growing pains require urgent attention.


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This story has 4 comments

  1. Annie Holt says:

    This is an important initiative to support the demand for Medical professionals in rural WA.There are many towns in the South West that do not have a resident doctor, in 2012 this is unacceptable standard of healthcare. It is time there was an alternative public university program for delivering medicine.

    • Rose says:

      If you think it’s bad in the South West, take a look at the availability (and turnover) of GPs in the North West… it’s not pretty.

      Having to complete an undergraduate degree before beginning medical studies is an antiquated and inane practice.

      Adding a Medical School to Curtin’s stable of schools will no doubt add a level of prestige that any vice chancellor would sell their soul for, but if it provides doctors for towns in need, this initiative is indeed something to support.

      • Amanda says:

        Shame on you Curtin. This is clearly a money grabbing scheme and you have no regard for current and future medical students from existing universities (not just UWA and ND but all over the country). Universities don’t produce doctors. Hospitals do. There is no point in producing more medical school graduates when there are not the training places, facilities and resources to allow them to specialise.

        Creating this medical school will place yet MORE strain on the existing health care system which is already struggling to train the next generation of doctors given the huge number of students that already exist around the country. Paradoxically, you are likely to jeapordise quality of patient care rather than improve it.

  2. Jason says:

    Great initiative! This will create a healthy level of competition among grads and unis. It will allow hospitals with more choices to select the best candidates.

    Why should a bright young student wait 3 years before embarking on their ambitions. Australia has produced great doctors who have entered medicine direct from high-school.

    There is clearly a shortage of Doctors in WA and the solution is not to stop unis from educating our children but for the Govt to start doing their job and investing in the future.
    Also, a med grad may not opt to become a practicing doctor- they can move into research/ teaching, become a healthcare journo or an investment analyst for the health sector at an investment bank etc.

    The flip side is termed a ‘skill shortage’- look at what is happening to the Aussie mining and finance sector!

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