The Australian Government acknowledges that Australians need a health workforce that is well distributed and has an appropriate mix of health professionals who can work in a range of service settings. This is essential for meeting the future health care needs of the population.
To support medical students training at the new Sunshine Coast University Hospital, the Minister for Education and Training,
Senator the Hon Simon Birmingham, approved the transfer, from 2017, of 35 commencing medicine Commonwealth supported places from the University of Queensland to Griffith University, amounting to 140 places at full capacity.
The most significant health workforce issue in Australia is no longer one of total supply, but of distribution, noting that the Australia’s Future Health Workforce
report projects both an oversupply of 7,052 doctors and a shortage of around 1,000 specialist training posts by 2030.
Australia has more than doubled its medical graduates in just over a decade. These increases will assist in meeting community needs for health services, but understandably are placing pressure on the system to support internships and specialist training places for new medical graduates.
It is timely to assess the number and distribution of medical places and schools in Australia within the context of workforce modelling, two decades of workforce distribution policies, the expansion of higher education places, and the Government’s priorities to address maldistribution of medical professionals across regional, rural and remote Australia.
On 14 December 2016, the Assistant Minister for Health, the Hon Dr David Gillespie MP, announced an assessment of the distribution of medical school places across Australia.
Minister Birmingham and Assistant Minister Gillespie have asked the Department of Education and Training and the Department of Health to jointly assess relevant policies, programs and evidence, and to consult with key stakeholders, and to jointly bring forward advice for the Government in the first half of 2017. The Department of Health will be assisted in this task by the National Medical Training Advisory Network.
The assessment process will take account of workforce data that indicates there is no need for additional medical places across the country, but rather a need to focus on the distribution of those places.
Making decisions on individual allocation requests, with a national assessment process underway, could confuse the process. Any future Government decisions, including any potential reallocation of medicine Commonwealth supported places, will be informed by the results of the national assessment process.
In the meantime, the Australian Government encourages the university, Queensland Health, and local stakeholders, to continue to work together on local solutions that do not require allocation of an extra 15 medicine Commonwealth supported places.