Sunshine Coast University Hospital east view.
Sunshine Coast University Hospital east view.

Specialist 'furphy' distracts from med school issue: MP

FISHER MP Andrew Wallace says the specialist training placements issue surrounding the medical school at the Coast's new university hospital is a "furphy", the real issue being deciding which universities to pull the required 15 placements from.

He said it was "not about money", that the Commonwealth Government's statistics and experts were warning of an oversupply of doctors graduating from universities, and that the Federal Government was not wanting to compound the problem created by an "overboard" response to a chronic doctor shortage a few years ago.

"We weren't training enough local doctors to meet the demand, so we had to import them," Mr Wallace said frankly.

"Unfortunately it appears that we may have gone overboard in successive governments and our statistics are telling us that we're going to have too many doctors coming out of universities now so we don't want to add to that problem by adding another 15."

Aerial shot of the Sunshine Coast University Hospital during construction. August 8, 2016.
Aerial shot of the Sunshine Coast University Hospital during construction. August 8, 2016. Contributed

He said that was the reason why Rural and Regional Assistant Health Minister Dr David Gillespie was currently assessing university med school placements across the nation, in a bid to redistribute the placements, sourcing the 15 positions required by the Coast from the existing supply.

"My understanding is that assessment will be completed by somewhere around about March-April next year," Mr Wallace said.


"Now I'm confident, but I can't give any guarantee, but I'm confident that out of that reassessment we will pick up our additional 15 placements."

Mr Wallace said it was important for people to understand that even if a reallocation was successful early next year there would still be a lag time before the medical school currently proposed by Griffith University was up and running.

"What they're telling me is that when and if they get their 50 placements it will take them about 12-18 months to establish the medical school," Mr Wallace said.

Andrew Wallace at his new Federal MP Fisher office.
Andrew Wallace at his new Federal MP Fisher office. Patrick Woods

The clinical school (for third and fourth year students) at Nambour currently operated by the University of Queensland would transfer to Kawana, Mr Wallace understood, while Griffith University would start its medical school with first year students, then years one and two, before possibly taking charge of all four.

Mr Wallace's comments came as State Health Minister Cameron Dick again called on the Federal Government to approve the 15 places immediately.

In his response to a question on notice, Mr Dick reiterated his commitment to fund half of the 15 places during transition, as well guarantee a place for every med school graduate in the intern training program.

He also stressed all students at the new medical school would be "afforded opportunities for specialist training places" based on projected demand for specialists on the Coast, but noted that would ultimately be decided by specialist colleges.

Mr Wallace said the long game was for the full medical school to transfer to University of the Sunshine Coast, but that was still a long way off.

"It's wrong to say the SCUH is at risk of not opening or it's not going to be fully-functional if these medical placements aren't there by April next year," he said.

"It will be fully-functional, it will be a tertiary hospital when it opens."

He understood there were still vacancies for specialist training places at the moment, meaning it was not a major sticking point.

"From where I sit it has nothing to do with the specialist medical placements, this is purely and simply about trying to find where we get those 15 places from," he said.

Mr Wallace said he'd spoken about contingencies if the reallocation didn't work out, with opportunities to have international, full-fee paying students brought in to fill the required places, effectively subsidising the 35 other local students in training.

It follows recent calls for a swift solution to the issue, with fears a failure to secure a fully-functional medical school would damage the chances of recruiting world-class specialists to the new, $1.8 billion facility which is the largest health project in the southern hemisphere.

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