New SA medical training program aims to boost rural healthcare

A new program will launch to increase rural medical student places in South Australia through Flinders University following a shortage of doctors in regional areas.

In a significant development for South Australia’s healthcare landscape, the Government has announced a new program aimed at increasing rural medical student places through Flinders University.

This initiative promises to address the shortage of doctors in regional areas while providing aspiring medical professionals with opportunities to complete their entire degree in rural South Australia.

Under this program, an additional 20 Commonwealth Supported Places will be offered, further bolstered by Flinders University’s reallocation of 20 places.

This joint effort will result in an annual intake of 40 additional medical students beginning in 2025.

“I thank the Federal Health Minister Mark Butler, Education Minister Jason Clare, and Assistant Minister for Rural and Regional Health, Emma McBride, for this important announcement for training more doctors in country SA,” Minister for Health & Wellbeing Chris Picton says.

“We know that having a sustainable workforce is the biggest hurdle facing our health system in regional South Australia.

“Training more doctors here in South Australia, and having training taking place entirely in our regional areas, is absolutely vital to ensuring the future pipeline of regional doctors.”

Flinders University is set to receive $19.7 million in Federal Government funding, securing the largest allocation of places among all Australian universities.

Currently, Flinders University provides third-year medical students with placement opportunities across various regional locations, including the Barossa, Berri, Renmark, Mount Gambier, Murray Bridge, and Victor Harbor. Thanks to this new funding, Flinders will expand its program, allowing students to complete their entire four-year medical degree within these regional communities.

“Flinders University is a proven leader in producing rural doctors who are well prepared for the challenges and rewards of rural practice,” Professor Colin Stirling, Vice-Chancellor at Flinders University says.

“Our rural medical students benefit from early and sustained exposure to rural health settings, and from learning alongside other health disciplines in interprofessional teams, developing strong connections which enhance their professional and personal development.”

Upon graduating they are highly sought after by employers and make a significant contribution to the health and wellbeing of rural Australians.

The shortage of doctors, particularly in regional areas, is a pressing issue faced nationwide. The Commonwealth Supported Places program has limited the number of medical graduates from Australian universities.

Recognising this challenge, the State Government has consistently advocated for an increase in the number of locally trained doctors.

Moving forward, the State Government, in collaboration with regional Local Health Networks, will actively support Flinders University in implementing this groundbreaking training program.

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