Central Queensland University has proposed a new medical school on its Rockhampton and Bundaberg campuses on the basis that it would be “a beneficial and logical next step” to attracting skilled medical professionals to the regions.
The University is already training hundreds of students in a large range of health services, including nursing, physiotherapy, occupational therapy, speech pathology, medical imaging, oral health and medical science.
The medical school may offer a four-year postgraduate medical degree on top of a completed three-year undergraduate course, such as medical science. If approved, the new school of medicine could commence training in 2021 with an initial intake of 20 – 30 medical students.
However the proposal is already facing opposition with the Australian Medical Students Association Rural Health (AMSA RH) Committee calling on the Queensland and Federal governments to reject the proposal on the basis that graduate numbers already exceed training places and the proposed location will duplicate existing federally funded Rural Clinical Schools.
Co-Chair of AMSA RH, Nic Batten said, “Along with Charles Sturt, La Trobe, and Macquarie, yet another university is selfishly ignoring the message that Australia is currently producing too many medical students, and the evidence that an increase in student numbers is not translating to more rural doctors”.
“The University of Queensland Rural Clinical School is already based in the locations proposed by CQU.
“UQ medical students train within the Central Qld Health Service at Rockhampton, within the Wide Bay Health Service at Bundaberg and Hervey Bay, and within the Darling Downs Health Service at Toowoomba.
“What will happen to these students and their opportunities for rural training if the new medical school is allowed to proceed?” asked Ms Batten.
“Many Queensland students, of both rural and urban background, want to become rural doctors, but the bottlenecks in training are hampering their ability to continue their careers in the country,” said Ms Batten.
AMSA President Alex Farrell said: “CQU is joining a long line of universities pushing for unnecessary medical degree programs. This takes place in a training climate which is already flooded with graduates, whilst Charles Sturt and La Trobe Universities continue to push for a Murray Darling Medical School in NSW and Victoria.”
“Medical student numbers have more than doubled in the past ten years. This has not been matched by an appropriate increase in the number of intern places, nor in speciality-training positions.
“It is estimated over 1,000 graduates will miss out on training positions by 2030. Any new medical school will only exacerbate this oversupply without providing more doctors for country areas.
“The duplication of already existing rural clinical school infrastructure is a waste of money that will not increase the supply of fully-trained doctors in rural areas,” said Ms. Farrell.
Ms. Batten said: “Rural areas are undersupplied by doctors, but if we’re serious about creating more rural doctors we need to focus on real solutions.
“Our trainee doctors need rural pathways to continue their training in the bush, so that they can stay in the bush.
“To create rural doctors, we need the opportunity for more rurally-based specialty training, and a concrete commitment from federal and state governments for the National Rural Generalist Pathway,” said Ms. Batten.
Central Queensland University Vice-Chancellor Professor Scott Bowman said his university’s allied health courses had helped to fill regional skills shortages.
“We are responding to our communities who have come to us due to the continuing challenge of recruiting medical staff in Wide Bay & Central Queensland,” said Prof. Bowman.
“This is a feasibility study which will take account of the views of all stakeholders – we are not necessarily predicating this on injections of funding from the Commonwealth.
“The proposal is for a postgraduate model of education and we have partnered with the Health Services in the regions in question. We are reaching out to the AMSA to have a dialogue with them. We’d love them to visit our regions and meet us and the Hospital & Health Services.”