What is the #interncrisis?
- This year 3326 students will graduate from medical schools in Australia. In order for these students to become doctors, they must complete a compulsory registration year – an internship.
- Due to a shortfall, 182 students have currently not received jobs.
- Local students are prioritised, so those missing out are international students who have spent the past 4-6 years in Australia and received the same training as their domestic colleagues.
- There is plenty of work for these graduates but the state and federal governments need to commit money to fund these jobs.
- Without internships, these 182 medical students will be forced overseas or into other professions, which is not ideal as Australia currently has a shortage of consultant doctors.
Senator Nash has asked the Minister representing the Minister for Health what the Government plans to do fix it’s medical internships problem.
No hospital places for medical interns? That’s an immigration problem, clueless Minister tells Senate
Senator Fiona Nash delivered an impassioned and informed speech in support of medical students that will hopefully make the Government see sense. The big message tonight is don’t give up, there is still hope! With everyone working together a solution has to be found soon.
History of the #interncrisis
In 1996, the Howard government capped medical school places due to a report predicting an oversupply of doctors by 2015.
In the early 2000s, when signs of a doctor shortage began to show, the government:
- Increased the number of medical school positions, and
- Recruited overseas trained doctors to fill the gaps in the meantime
Each year the Ministry of Training Review Panel’s (MTRP) annual reports shows the projected increases, so the current situation has been known about for years.
- In 2000, there were 1660 graduates, in 2012 there are 3326.
The first step is to hold on to all of the Australian-trained medical graduates by providing more internships so all Australian graduates can work in Australia.
Many of the problems arise from multiple bodies being responsible for medical training:
- Federal government sets the cap for domestic students,
- Universities decide how many international students to recruit
- States are responsible for internships
- Federal government is responsible for specialty training
This disjointed approach to health workforce planning leads to disputes and prevents development of a coherent plan for the health workforce. Australia needs to have a single body responsible for health workforce planning and significant investment into the expansion of training programs at all levels of the system.
The first year of work after graduation is called an internship. In the final years of medical school, students learn the skills required, and internships ensure they are adequately supervised and supported while they take on the responsibilities of being a doctor.
Interns work between 40-60 hours a week and rotate through medical areas such as emergency, surgery, and internal medicine.
The intern is an important part of the hospital and allows doctors with more experience to focus on higher-level tasks while the intern takes care of the routine and administrative work. Without interns, public hospitals would not be able to function.
Without an internship a medical graduate is unable to obtain general registration to work as a medical practitioner in Australia. That means that the medical graduate is forced to apply overseas to do their internship and the pathway to return to Australia is very difficult, thus those forced overseas are unlikely to return as doctors.
Australia has a shortage of doctors. High profile stories like that of Buladelah are just the tip of the iceberg, with the report from Health Workforce Australia 2025 predicting a shortage of over 3000 doctors by 2025.
Currently Australia imports over 2000 overseas trained doctors annually – more than any other developed country – and many of these are only on temporary visas, brought in to plug the gaps created by the poor planning decisions of the past. Retaining the Australian-trained doctors who are graduating today will help to address the shortages of the future.
Logical arguments have been made to the government with little success. Our aim is to raise awareness so that the public understands the issue and puts pressure on the state and federal governments to solve the #interncrisis. We need a short term solution to find places for the 182 graduates we are about to lose, and we need everyone to work together to find long-term solution addressing the training bottleneck that will only get worse.
- Scrubs on the Street Protest – On Sunday, October 21st over 200 medical students in NSW took to the streets of Sydney to protest medical training issues. Read more about it here.
- AMSA (the peak body representing Australia’s 17,000 medical students) is working hard to lobby politicians and try to affect change, learn more at their Intern Crisis page.
- The Australian Medical Association have also been active in trying to force a resolution to the current crisis and to encourage investment for the long term benefit of the health care system.
How you can help
Be part of the movement. Medical Student Action on Training has exploded because of the involvement of people like you but we’re not over the hump yet. We need all the talented, passionate people who study medicine or know people studying medicine to get involved. When we speak with a collective voice we can’t be ignored!