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Acute shortage of medical professionals in Australia

Written by: Staff

Sydney, Apr 30 (UNI) In spite of influx of general practitioners from countries like Britain, India and Pakistan, shortage of medical professionals in Australia is not showing any signs of improving in the near future, sources said.

The Australian policymakers have been struggling for years to cope with a dearth of medical practitioners like GPs and nurses.

Ageing medical force has made the matters even worse, they said.

According to a research by Monash University academics five new medical schools since year 2000 have failed to address the crisis which has even resulted in emergency departments of few government hospitals shutting down.

The impact of the GP shortage is even more acute in the remote country areas.

The size of the Australian total medical workforce is likely to rise from 53,384 in 2001 to 67,659 in 2012.

The research, published in the Medical Journal of Australia, shows shortage would become even worse as more doctors will move into specialist sectors over the next six years.

Dr Catherine Joyce from Monash University believes there are no easy answers to the GP shortage.

''We really need to start thinking more broadly about what we in Australia currently think about as general practice services,'' Dr Joyce told the Australian Broadcasting Corporation (ABC) Radio today.

''Our modelling shows that simply training more GPs in not going to address this problem,'' she said.

Beside immigration and new medical schools, practicing GPs would be encouraged to postpone retirement until later. The specialists are also likely to be asked to take more of the primary care role to meet the shortage head-on.

Lower retirement rates, with more doctors staying in the workforce longer, would result in a significantly larger workforce, particularly in the short term,'' the medical research said.

''With the ageing of the Australian medical workforce, retirement rates will remain an important determinant of total medical workforce supply,'' it added.

The Monash University research has forecasted a decline in the number of GPs from 133 full-time doctors per 100,000 people in 2001 to 129 per 100,000 within a few years.

''Persistent chronic GP shortages imply the need for some lateral thinking on how to ensure that Australia's need for primary medical care can be met,'' Dr Catherine Joyce said in her research paper.


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