Medical community warns against Nationals' 'impassioned' push for regional medical schoo

Acting Prime Minister Michael McCormack is calling for the establishment of a new regional medical school to address a doctor shortage in the bush.

Key points:

  • Michael McCormack's call to establish a regional medical school has been opposed by the medical community

  • AMA vice-president Tony Bartone says the past decade had already seen an "enormous" increase in student numbers

  • Dr Bartone and the AMA are instead calling for more training placements

But the National leader's proposal has prompted warnings from the medical community who say an oversupply of doctors could exacerbate strains on training placements.

The National Party has long campaigned in support of a regional medical school to address the shortage of doctors in regional and remote Australia.

In a speech to the National Press Club on Thursday, Mr McCormack spoke passionately about regional Australia's future.

But while he spoke of investment and growth in the regions, he also spoke of challenges,

including health, the greatest issue being a "lack of local doctors".

"I am a big believer in rural medical schools which will address the maldistribution of doctors," Mr McCormack said.

"As the Nationals leader, I believe medical schools should happen."

He encouraged his party colleagues to continue pushing for more doctors, singling out NSW MP Andrew Gee who is championing the push for the Murray Darling Medical School.

"We will continue to fight for it, I know Andrew Gee certainly will," Mr McCormack said.

The relatively new party leader's support for regional medical schools has reignited warnings from medical groups ahead of the May budget.

AMA urges against more schools

The medical community reissued its message to the Government not to fund more medical schools.

The Australian Medical Association's (AMA) vice-president, Dr Tony Bartone, said the message was not getting through.

"This is not the way you try and get good-quality doctors into rural and regional Australia," Dr Bartone said.

He said he understood rural and regional Australia's frustration, but argued there had been an "enormous" increase in student numbers in the past decade.

"We continue to pour out doctors, but we don't have a sustainable, robust training solution to allow them to develop their capabilities," he said.

"It's those postgraduate training positions which are the bottlenecks, the major barrier."

Dr Bartone said accepting more medical students from rural backgrounds, and supporting those students with rural training places was the key.

"You need to have students from a rural background, trained in a rural background and given the opportunity to develop their career in a rural background."

The AMA said it had provided the Federal Government with "clear" information supporting its call for more training placements, not schools.

"The ball is firmly in the Government's court and it is not a question of simply shifting a gear and hoping that if we produce enough medical students eventually some will sift through to rural and regional," Dr Bartone said.

The concerns were echoed by the Rural Doctors Association of Australia and the Australian Medical Students' Association.

For information on financial advice for doctors and medical students in Brisbane and Sydney, please visit our Whole Wealth Medical Page.

This article was published and provided by the Australian Broadcasting Corporation.

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