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04 July 2023

RACGP welcomes rural medical student boost

The Royal Australian College of General Practitioners (RACGP) has welcomed the Albanese Government’s rural medical student boost.

It comes following the Government announcing that universities can now apply for additional Commonwealth supported places (CSPs) for rural trained medical students, as well as capital funding for new regional training facilities. The Government will provide $114.2 million over four years to deliver 80 new medical CSPs a year from 2024.

RACGP Rural Chair Associate Professor Michael Clements backed the announcement.

“This is a boost for rural healthcare,” he said.

“As the college that represents four out of five rural GPs, the most of any organisation in Australia, the RACGP welcomes this investment. This initiative, aimed at attracting more doctors to train and practice in rural and regional Australia, will hopefully have a significant impact on improving access to essential health and medical services for people in rural and remote communities.

“The RACGP has long been calling for government to facilitate more regional and rural placements for medical school students to encourage future doctors to live and work outside of major cities. At the end of the day, you can’t be what you can’t see. We need more future doctors not only studying in the bush but having a positive experience immersing themselves in a rural community. Only then can we hope to break the magnetic bind that cities have our future workforce. 

“One study, which looked at more than 2,000 University of Queensland medical students who completed a six-week placement in a smaller rural community in their third year, found that 106 students chose to extend their rural placement. Not only that, the students who also did two years of training in regional areas were seven times more likely to choose to work outside of a major city. So, we know what works, and I hope these new Commonwealth supported places enhance the number of future doctors taking up a career outside of a major city.

“The next challenge ahead of us is encouraging them to take up a career in general practice. I think if more medical students had greater exposure to general practice and we were able to improve the portability of entitlements through GP training, we could boost the GP workforce. The College will keep up the fight on that front, because as things stand, we are facing an estimated shortfall of more than 11,000 GPs by 2032 and this problem is particularly pronounced outside of major cities.”

Associate Professor Clements also welcomed the investment in new infrastructure.

“Investing in regional and rural training facilities is just what the doctor ordered,” he said.

“Adequate infrastructure is crucial to support comprehensive medical training and ensure that medical students have access to modern facilities and resources. They deserve nothing but the best. By providing funding for these new facilities, the Government is taking a proactive step in addressing the infrastructure needs of medical schools in regional areas, making them more attractive destinations for medical students and increasing the likelihood of graduates choosing rural practice.

“This announcement is timely, particularly given a recent report found that each person in rural Australia is missing out on nearly $850 a year of healthcare access, which equates to a total annual rural health spending deficit of $6.5 billion. We have a long way to go, and this is a small yet important step forward in bridging the gap and boosting rural healthcare.”


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