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Curtin’s medical school would focus on producing much needed GPs for WA

Posted: 10 March 2014

As reported in the Medical Observer, Friday 7 March 2014, the President of the College of General Practitioners told attendees at a conference on The Future of General Practice held in Canberra recently, that although there were more doctors per capita in the cities compared to rural areas, the numbers were still too low.

gp with patient

Dr Liz Marles is reported as saying that while numbers of medical specialists were continuing to grow, general practitioner (GP) numbers were not increasing at the same rate.

“The number of GPs per (100,000) population in cities is only 108, which is less than the national average,” Dr Marles said.

“Even more concerning, 41 per cent of them are aged over 55, so even for people in capital cities we are likely to see a big crisis in general practice across the board.”

While this is true for the country as a whole, it is even more pressing in Western Australia (WA).

As recently published by Dr Felicity Jefferies of HealthFix Consulting, publicly available data show that, per head, the people of WA have the lowest numbers of doctors, GPs and medical students in Australia, the highest reliance on overseas-trained doctors and the highest rate of population growth (currently double the national average).

Some suburbs of Perth have grown at more than 200 per cent in the last 10 years. There is also serious maldistribution, with a four to one disparity in GP numbers between the western and eastern suburbs of Perth.

Dr Jefferies’ report shows that the projected outputs of the existing medical schools, even with the increased numbers of graduates, will not improve the supply of doctors in WA, because of the expected population growth.

Curtin University is proposing a new medical school to increase the number of doctors and to produce graduates who want to train as GPs.

Curtin will achieve this through a selective recruitment policy and by focusing the course around the population needs and the role of a GP.

Professor William Hart, Head of the School of Medicine said Curtin was aware that a medical school would not produce GPs, but rather intern-ready graduates.

“Curtin graduates will see a career in general practice as a desirable option,” Professor Hart said.

“There will need to be a significant increase in postgraduate GP training opportunities. But without a significant increase in medical graduates who want to become GPs there will still be a substantial shortage in this area.”