Internship Crisis. The word on all our lips. The medical student bottleneck now reaching its first peak, the blame game has begun in full swing. The verdict written on the wall: inexcusable damage done to the medical training infrastructure by greedy mismanagement. Australia simply cannot let any of its doctors go, this cannot happen when there is a shortage. Among all the chaos, the breadcrumb trail is fast disappearing . Is there an actual need or have we been hardwired by the same people who started the fire in the first place?

In 2000, the initiative began to increase doctor numbers and it has steadily been increasing via changes to immigration laws and increasing student numbers. From 1999 to 2009, there has been a 41%(45,999 to 67,613) increase in doctor numbers. Hence, Australia ranks among the highest in the world for doctors per capita, 3 doctors per 1000 people. It stands shoulder to shoulder with the other OECD countries, losing out to the better established Europeans countries but ahead of both UK and US.

But, I hear what you’re saying, area of need i.e Primary Care, that’s what needs to be addressed. Here is where it starts to get murky. The greatest increments, out of the 41%, are in the number of Specialists(accounting for 36% of the growth). Primary Care physicians seeing the lowest increase in that same period, accounting for only 23%. This statistic is marred further by the fact that GP’s have significantly lower full-time working numbers. This is including the aftereffects of the immigration laws leading to an increasing proportion of IMGs(International Medical Graduates). The overwhelming majority of them becoming GPs. As it stands, a third of all GPs are IMGs, the proportion increasing as you move away from the major cities. If you have a puzzled expression and are partaking in fervent chin scratching, do not fret, I am right there with you. Tertiary care is being bolstered by increasing numbers whilst primary care stands only a few feet higher than where it was a decade ago and is leaning precariously on IMG’s.

Surely, having more doctors is a good thing? So whats with all the ruckus?

As the medical student numbers continue to swell, the ripple effect will be seen in all aspects of health care. Losing potential interns is damaging, but the demands on subsequent vocational training positions will rise. If this haemorrhaging isn’t addressed, how will Australia retain it’s best doctors? Try not to imagine losing trained doctors to greener pastures overseas. The shadow grows long on the government’s masquerade that this internship crisis is a passing shower. Today, international medical students are the helpless fish left to dry by the retreating water as this tsunami takes a long hard breathe.

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