Sunday, August 15, 2010

Anger over lack of medical internships

SMH - Kate Benson
August 10, 2010

NSW medical students are demanding the federal government stop increasing university places after more than 100 graduates failed to get internships in public hospitals this week.

The crisis comes three years after the government increased university places to solve the state's crippling shortage of doctors, but failed to employ extra staff in NSW hospital to supervise interns.

About 115 international students, who each paid more than $200,000 for their degrees, were told yesterday they would have to wait until Friday for final offers but there was little chance they would be employed, forcing many of them to return home.

''The intern year is a 12-month period of postgraduate training that is required for general medical registration,'' the president of the Sydney University Medical Society, Jon Noonan, said. ''Without it, a medical degree is not worth the paper it is printed on.

"At this point last year more than two-thirds of locally trained internationals had been offered an internship within NSW. The fact that none have been placed has come as a shock to our colleagues, who had been repeatedly reassured they would be taken care of,'' he said.

A spokeswoman for the Institute of Medical Education and Training, which allocates internships, said 747 positions were available this year, more than enough for the state's 685 graduates, but NSW had been swamped by applicants from other states.

Last year, when the same problem occurred, the government invoked a priority system because it did not have enough money to offer internships to all graduates wanting to work in NSW.

Under that system, international students trained in NSW are only offered positions once all Australians and New Zealanders trained in Australia and overseas-trained applicants are employed, a decision that has angered the Australian Medical Students Association.

''We have a government which provides huge incentives to get these doctors back once they have left [Australia] and it seems illogical to me to do so when we have people who've been trained here to our standards,'' its president, Ross Roberts-Thomson, said.

''A medical degree qualifies you for nothing but an internship. If you don't get an internship, you essentially have a piece of paper which allows you to drive a taxi - or not even that.''

Mr Noonan agreed, saying it defied logic that state and federal governments would shut the door on Australian-trained international students while relying on foreign-trained doctors to fill gaps in the health workforce.

Mr Noonan said his group wanted the state government to guarantee internships to all graduates in NSW and join with other states to adopt a consistent and co-ordinated framework for intern allocations.

Two years ago, the Minister for Health, Nicola Roxon, said she was aware clinical training places were ''a pressure point within the system'' but the government had no plans to cut university places for medical students.

''This was a crisis that was always going to happen,'' the former chief executive of the Australian Medical Association, Bill Coote, said yesterday.

''There has been very rapid growth in the number of medical schools and the expansion of existing schools - and there is the parallel issue of how medical schools have been allowed to attract full-fee paying students to subsidise their activities when we can't provide all graduates with appropriate training.''

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Radical surgery for area health services

August 5, 2010 - 10:36AM

The way healthcare is delivered to patients in NSW will change under a state government plan which aims to ensure hospitals can better respond to local needs.

Area health services, which now run NSW hospitals and have been criticised for red tape, will be broken up to help deliver that care.

Seventeen local health networks will replace the eight area health services.

The NSW government will this morning release a discussion paper detailing its response to the national health reforms proposed by the Council of Australian Governments in April.

The Herald understands the following hospitals will be "paired", to share resources and equipment, under new local health network boundaries:

- Campbelltown and Liverpool

- Concord and Royal Prince Alfred

- Blacktown and Westmead

- Nepean and Blue Mountains and Lithgow

- Bathurst and Orange

Hunter New England Area Health Service, which includes John Hunter Hospital, will remain with the same boundaries.

The Premier, Kristina Keneally, and the Minister for Health, Carmel Tebbutt, are releasing the discussion paper at Royal Prince Alfred.

Ms Keneally said the changes would deliver an extra $1.2 billion in funding to the NSW health system over four years and lead to 488 beds being opened in 2010/11.