Building Australia's health workforce - more medical specialists

A hundred and fifty new specialist training positions for doctors were announced today as part of the Australian Government’s $346 million commitment to better access to health specialists.

The new specialist training positions, beginning in 2013, were announced by Minister for Health Tanya Plibersek during a visit to Wollongong Hospital.

“This is the major referral and teaching hospital for the Illawarra and Shoalhaven regions and it will gain a new training position, in addition to the six existing training posts for specialists already funded by the Commonwealth in this region,” Ms Plibersek said.

“In 2013, the Australian Government will fund salaries and supervision costs for 750  trainee doctors across Australia as part of our Specialist Training Program. Around half of these positions will be in rural, regional and remote locations - areas of greatest need for additional medical specialists.

“This is an increase on the 600 posts in 2012 – and a record investment. This is in contrast to just 51 specialist training positions funded by the Commonwealth when Tony Abbott was Health Minister.

“We are making substantial investments in the local health workforce and this crucial funding will further boost the number of specialist training places in our community.

“This comes on top of our unprecedented investment in primary care, including doubling the number of GP training places. By the year 2014, this will have increased to 1,200 per year.”

The specialist training places underway in the Wollongong region include anatomical pathology (two positions), geriatric medicine, haematology, otolaryngology (head and neck surgery), and radiology.

As part of the new 2013 specialist training posts announced by Ms Plibersek today, a new post has been awarded to the Illawarra Shoalhaven Local Hospital Network, including rotations through Wollongong Hospital in geriatric medicine.

The Specialist Training Program is well established across Australia, and provides training in areas of need, outside of major metropolitan training hospitals.

“We are training specialists in locations where they are most needed, and in a range of public, private, community and non-clinical settings. On completion of their training, these specialists will be well equipped to meet a wide range of community needs, while also having the very best clinical experience and supervision. .

“The medical specialist colleges are key partners with the Government in supporting specialist training places, and I want to acknowledge their role in support for education and training of future College Fellows. I also congratulate the NSW Government for its cooperation in making new training posts possible across the state, Ms Plibersek said.

NSW Minister for Health Jillian Skinner said: “I welcome this commitment from the Commonwealth Government. It complements the NSW Government $550 million annual investment in specialist trainees who are now working and training in our state’s public hospitals.

“These specialist positions add to the NSW Government-funded three new specialist training positions in the Illawarra Shoalhaven to start in 2013 in General Medicine and Palliative care.

“It’s wonderful to see both State and Federal governments working together for the benefit of patients and the next generation of specialist clinicians.”

“The Australian Government’s Specialist Training Program is allocating hundreds of its training posts for specialists to communities of need. They will gain locally-provided healthcare via the program’s highly-skilled trainee medical specialists,” Ms Bird said.

Stephen Jones, the Federal Member for Throsby, said: “The specialist training positions in Wollongong Hospital will translate into more locally-available high-level medical skills for the people of the South Coast, wherever they live, whoever they are.

“For many, it will mean not having to travel all the way to Sydney for treatment.”

Wollongong is the tertiary referral and teaching hospital for the Illawarra and Shoalhaven, with a workforce of more than 1,700 staff, treating 47,000 patients each year.

The campus incorporates the Illawarra Regional Cancer Care Centre and supports the University of Wollongong’s Graduate School of Medicine and School of Nursing and Midwifery.