By LAUREN POLLARD.
Imagine working, studying and training for 4+ years to become a doctor.
You want to work in Australia, you want to save lives, you want to ease pain and you want to become an integral part of the Australian health system. A system that is currently struggling to support itself. A system that is relying on the recruitment of 2500 foreign doctors each year.
Now, imagine graduating from your degree at one of Australia’s best universities and not being able to work because while the system is crying out for doctors: we don’t have enough intern places to do the final training for those who want to be doctors.
My 21-year old sister is a first-year medical student at the University of Sydney. Like so many other students, she has had to sacrifice so much in order to pursue her dream of one day being a doctor.
The hours are long, the training rigorous and the expectations placed upon them are excruciating. The thought of her jumping through all these hurdles only to be told ‘sorry’ at the end of 4 long years, is unimaginable.
And yet this is exactly what’s happening to 182 international students who have just finished their Australian studies to become medical professionals.
They’ve been trained to meet Australian standards and desperately want to work. Yet State and Federal governments are fighting over whose responsibility it is to fund their internship places – and without an internship these doctors cannot practice in Australia.
These students have paid hundreds of thousands of dollars to train in our prestigious hospitals and medical schools with the hope of working for the Australian health system. And now it looks like it might all have been for nothing.
How did this happen?
Under the Howard Government in 2004, there was an increase in the number of medical students trained within Australia. Unfortunately, the lack of one single government body being responsible for medical training and funding across Australia has resulted in a health system that has not been prepared to deal with the increased numbers of graduates.
The increase in medical students without subsequent planning reflects a lack of understanding and foresight from all levels of government about the rigorous training a doctor must undergo to become qualified and skilled in their field. NSW Health Minister, Jillian Skinner went so-far as suggesting that these international students fund their own internships and pay to work in our hospitals.
As you can imagine, the issues surrounding this are complex and wide-reaching.
To meet the current demand, Australia is importing doctors from third-world countries in order to support our own health system. Importing doctors from these countries can potentially have devastating effect on their own struggling health systems. Not to mention, small rural towns are crying out for doctors…
And yet our governments are prepared to turn their backs on these students, who have studied here and want to work here and who desperately want to help.
If the issue isn’t addressed quickly the intern crisis is only going to grow. In the not-too-distant future, there is a genuine fear that our own domestic students won’t be able to access internships after graduation.
The fact is that Australia needs more Australian trained doctors.
It makes no sense that we’re importing more than 2,000 foreign-trained doctors per year into our health system, yet we’re sending the ones we’ve trained away because we can’t support the completion of their study.
We need these students just as much as they need us.
In trying to get this crisis resolved, a petition has been posted on change.org to try and raise awareness. There is a hashtag going around Twitter (#interncrisis) and a peaceful protest (Scrubs on the Street) took place in Sydney over the weekend.
Lauren is a 25 year old Communications student from Newcastle, NSW who has spent the past 7 years working for regional newspapers. When she’s not tweeting about the #interncrisis she enjoys binge reading, shopping too much and all things tween.