22 May 2013
ACT Government sinks medical training crisis to a new low
The Australian Medical Students’ Association (AMSA) is calling on the ACT Government’s Chief and Health Minister, Katy Gallagher MLA, to reverse ACT Health’s recent decision that will inhibit the ability of young doctors to work interstate.
The ACT Government is the most recent jurisdiction to change its system of allocating internships. In addition to prioritising international students studying at the Australian National University Medical School over domestic students studying interstate, including those who completed Year 12 in the ACT, they are now trying to restrict all Australian National University Medical School graduates from applying to other jurisdictions.
“The ACT Government has gone much further than the Victorian, Western Australian and Tasmanian governments,” AMSA President, Mr Ben Veness said.
“The ACT Government has told local graduating medical students that if they merely apply for a position interstate, they may lose the opportunity to work in the ACT.
“This is coercive, anti-competitive, and exploitative of our future doctors. Students have told me they feel bullied.
“ACT Health claim to be seeking graduates who are committed to working in the ACT, yet this year they have halved the length of contract they are offering new doctors, from two years to one. They are sending mixed messages and students are distrustful.
“These changes do nothing to increase the number of doctors working in Australian communities, they merely limit the mobility of young doctors.
“The State, Territory and Federal governments need to collaborate to increase the number of medical internships in Australia. The governments need to allocate these internships efficiently and consistently across the country.
“Internships are mandatory for doctors to complete in order to enter specialty training and work independently in the community. Without cooperation, and the creation of enough internships, Australia will lose doctors overseas. During a shortage of doctors, that’s unacceptable.”
The Victorian Government last year changed its allocation of internships to preference all local international students ahead of interstate Australian students.
This year, Western Australia made changes to preference local international students ahead of interstate Australian students who did not complete their high school education in Western Australia. Tasmania allocates internships to Tasmanian international students before any interstate students, and treats interstate students equally without regard to their residency status.
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AMSA’s Federal Budget Report Card
Below is a list of the requests AMSA made in its Pre-Budget Submission earlier this year. We have done our best to search through the Budget documents in the last 24 hours and see how this year’s Budget stacks up against what medical students believe is important.
The Budget documents are immense! If you feel we’ve missed something, please contact James Lawler (email@example.com).
1. Funding for undergraduate medical education should be increased as recommended by the Higher Education Base Funding Review Report (2011), which was commissioned by the Government.
This has not occurred. On the contrary, despite two Government-commissioned reports in the last 5 years recommending increases in higher education funding, the Government has cut tertiary education funding by $2.3 billion.
2. The Federal Government must ensure adequate funding for high quality postgraduate training positions is available so that adequate numbers of doctors are trained to practice in hospitals and the community.
The number of training positions funded through the Specialist Training Program for 2013 will increase to 750 (600 in 2012). The majority of these appear to be in Emergency Medicine. There are no Federally-funded internship positions provided for 2013, despite predictions of an increased number of graduates.
3. No new medical schools should be established.
There is no Federal funding for new medical schools.
4. The Federal Government must ensure at least 25 per cent of new medical students are from Rural Backgrounds.
This target is not addressed in the Budget. The Government instead highlights that at least 25 per cent of medical students will study in a Rural Clinical School for at least one year, and highlights a range of strategies for the rural health workforce.
5. The 2013-14 Budget must expand successful rural exposure and support schemes, including Rural Clinical Schools and Rural Australia Medical Undergraduate Scholarship programs.
The Government will continue to support Rural Clinical Schools and university departments of rural health; however these will be no expansion of these measures specifically.
6. Financial support of students should allow students to meet the costs of living, as detailed by the Henderson Poverty Line.
There has been no increase of financial support for students. In fact, it has essentially been reduced through the conversion of the Government’s Start-Up Scholarships to loans. This will only increase the level of student debt and risk decreasing access to tertiary education, especially for people from low socioeconomic backgrounds.
7. Eligibility criteria for student income support programs should include an income threshold for independence that is not dependent on working a specific number of hours per week or months per year, which are prohibitive to students in hour-intensive courses and courses with limited flexibility for deferral.
There has been no change to the eligibility criteria for Youth Allowance or Austudy. Students in high intensity courses (such as medicine) still face significant barriers to accessing Youth Allowance. This is despite Universities Australia data, released last week, that showed approximately 17 per cent of university students have to miss a meal because of inadequate funds.
8. Target funding towards healthcare initiatives which support Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders, and which are implemented under the guidance of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander representative organisations and communities.
There are incentive payments for general practices and Aboriginal Medical Services to employ Aboriginal Health Workers. There is also increased funding for the Close the Gap initiative.
9. Funding should be maintained to provide bursaries and other support to in-need Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander medical students during their studies.
There is no change in funding for schemes which directly target Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander medical students.
10. No further deferments of the commitment to Foreign Aid increases can be made. The Federal Government must commit to achieving 0.7 per cent of gross national income (GNI) as its Foreign Aid Contribution, in line with commitments it has made to the United Nations.
The Australian Government has increased its foreign aid contribution, but further increases will occur at a slower rate than originally promised. Despite bipartisan support for 0.5 per cent of GNI by 2014-15, the Federal Government will instead aim to reach this target by 2016-17.
15 May 2013
Federal Budget lacks vision for future of medical training
The Australian Medical Students’ Association (AMSA) believes the Federal Budget has failed to set out a long-term vision for quality medical education in Australia or for tertiary education generally.
AMSA President, Ben Veness, said the NDIS and the Gonski school reforms are admirable and worthy long-term goals for the Government and the country, but university education should be afforded the same status and support.
“There was some welcome new funding for the university sector in the Budget but nothing of the magnitude to offset the recent huge cuts to higher education,” Mr Veness said.
“The Government has ignored two reviews, that it initiated, which both recommended increased funding for universities, and medical education in particular.
“The Review of Australian Higher Education recommended increased funding for universities. The Higher Education Base Funding Review Panel Report of 2011 found that medical schools were particularly underfunded.
“Medical schools remain underfunded by around $20,000 per student, per year.
“The Government needs to better support universities to provide secure and affordable learning environments for future generations of students, including for medical education.”
“Health Minister Tanya Plibersek has been active in solving medical training pipeline issues through COAG and Health Workforce Australia but she has had to act on a year-by-year and State-by-State basis because of funding uncertainty into the future.
Mr Veness said AMSA welcomes funding for Closing the Gap, cancer care, and DisabilityCare.
“We are disappointed, however, with the delayed increases to foreign aid and failure of the Budget to provide greater support for university students.
“Youth Allowance payments remain well below the Henderson Poverty Line and Start-up Scholarships have been turned into loans that add to student debt and may discourage participation, especially from low socio-economic background students.
“Universities Australia data, released last week, showed that 17 per cent of university students regularly miss meals because they can’t afford them.”
AMSA’s Pre-Budget Submission can be found on its website.
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Do you take joy in convening events? Is there something you want to advocate for through campaigns? Do you think you have a million dollar idea that AMSA and the 17,000 students it represents can benefit from? Yes? Then AMSA’s Pitch Your Project Competition could be your calling.
What is it? Medical students across Australia are invited to explain, in 200 words, an idea for a new event, campaign or advocacy issue that AMSA could benefit from. Finalists will then provide a 10 minute pitch at the AMSA National Convention in the Gold Coast, and the winner, chosen by delegates, will be made Project Manager for this new event/ campaign in 2014 and will be the owner of a new iPad Mini.
The Pitch Your Project Competition opens on the 9th of May and closes on the 9th of June. Finalists will be notified by the 15th of June, and the 10 minute pitch will be made during Convention from the 7th to the 14th of July, during which the winner will be announced. Pitch your project by filling in this form. If you won’t be at Convention, or if you have any other questions, contact firstname.lastname@example.org. GAI.
13 May 2013
International negotiations threaten access to essential medicines
The Australian Medical Students’ Association (AMSA) has called on the Australian Government and other national negotiators to preserve access to essential medicines during this week’s Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) negotiations in Lima, Peru.
The 17th round of negotiations represents an opportunity for negotiators to take a strong stance in maintaining public health safeguards within this unprecedented free trade deal.
AMSA President, Mr Ben Veness, highlighted the importance of this opportunity to voice opposition to the excessively harsh intellectual property proposals within the draft agreement.
“We are very concerned that the leaked proposals have revealed aggressive intellectual property provisions. The provisions would result in enhanced patent protection for pharmaceutical companies, thereby increasing costs and hindering access to affordable generic medicines.
“We are concerned that negotiations are occurring in secret. Civil society organisations have been relying on the leaked texts to analyse the potential ramifications of the agreement.
“The leaked provisions have the potential to overpower public and global health safeguards that have been enshrined in previous international trade agreements.
“Australia may feel the effects of these provisions through increased costs of our own Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme.
“The US Government wishes to enact direct restrictions on national pharmaceutical reimbursement schemes, affecting the ability of governments to negotiate prices based on science and cost-effectiveness.
“Under no circumstances should the Australian Government allow the TPP to increase intellectual property provisions at the cost of reduced access to medicines in both Australia and our region.”
AMSA is represented at the TPP negotiations by Monash medical student, Mr Timothy Martin. Timothy will present at the negotiators’ Stakeholders’ Day on May 19 in order to express AMSA’s concerns with the potential ramifications of the TPP on access to medicines and health.
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Writing in this month’s AMA (Victoria) vicdoc magazine, AMSA President Benjamin Veness explains why it is not in the national interest to have internship prioritisation policies that vary between jurisdictions and restrict the mobility of citizens and residents. Since this article was submitted for publication, Western Australia has announced changes to their priority list that approach the Victorian position, however they are still prioritising all Year 12 WA graduates above temporary residents. The ACT has a very similar policy to Victoria. AMSA’s first priority is to seek an increase in the total number of internships that will be available for 2014 so that the issue of mobility is ameliorated.
Information on internships in each jurisdiction:
AMSA is getting ready for its Second Council meeting of 2013, to be held in the Gold Cost in July. As part of this meeting AMSA discusses its advocacy agenda as well as creating and reviewing policy. If you have an interest in AMSA’s policy, have a look at the newest edition of the Policy Guide or talk to your AMSA Rep for more information.
Applications are now open to attend the Pre-GHC Training workshops. Jointly coordinated by the Australian Medical Students’ Association (AMSA) and the International Federation of Medical Students’ Associations (IFMSA), these three day workshops will be run from September 9th – 11th, just prior to the 2013 Global Health Conference (GHC), in the same great location – Hobart, Tasmania. All students are encouraged to apply. Two workshops will run this year – Training New Trainers (TNT) and Think Global (TG).
Training New Trainers:
This TNT is looking to equip students from the Asia-Pacific region with the skills needed to plan, coordinate and facilitate successful training sessions on a wide range of topics. These topics range from project management and campaigning skills, right through to global health issues such as Climate Change and Health.
With these skills, participants will be able to coordinate training sessions at the GHC, back in their own medical society or local community, at regional conferences or even at the 2014 IFMSA General Assembly!
The workshop will focus on the research and utilisation of resources, preparations for training sessions, facilitation and conflict management techniques, presentation and communication skills, and group motivation tools. After completing the three day workshop – delegates will be required to present a training session on a topic in global health at GHC2013, to complete their training.
Training New Trainers presents a great opportunity for students to become involved with the IFMSA, and will be recognised as IFMSA Trainers, with access to great opportunities to run workshops locally, regionally and internationally.
Think Global Workshop
Think Global is an Initiative Project of the IFMSA, focused on Global Health Education. It works extensively with all 97 countries represented by the IFMSA, and in 2013 is for a fourth time partnering with AMSA!
TG is looking to engage students from the Asia-Pacific region and provide a unique mix of thought provoking education on highly topical issues in global health; intensive training in communication and advocacy skills; and develop a clear path for action into the future.
As we near the 2015 deadline for the completion of the UN’s millennium development goals, the TG workshop will be a unique opportunity to reflect on the progress made towards achieving these goals, analyse what there is left to accomplish and developing frameworks for the post-2015 agenda. TG will provide a platform for medical students to assess the strengths and flaws of the millennium development goals, as well as ask what the targets should be post-2015, as well as how they should be measured.
With input from the International Think Global Team, local experts in the field and delegates to the World Health Assembly and pathways to become further involved in the IFMSA and their global projects, the TG workshop is an opportunity not to be missed!
Training New Trainers and Think Global will each accommodate for 25 delegates from the Asia-Pacific Region. We will aim to select the delegation as early as possible to help minimise the costs of airfares associated with attendance.
Those who attend the 3 day TNT and TG Program will also be required to attend the Global Health Conference. They will have a guaranteed place at GHC, for this purpose.
For more information about Think Global click here.
For more information about the Training New Trainers workshop click here.
Applications close: Friday 24 May 2013
Starting a rotation in renal medicine? Need a refresher on all things kidneys? Then this is the book for you. At only 200 pages and covering all the important topics in renal medicine, this is the perfect size book to carry around on the wards.
Everyone dreads renal medicine and its complex physiology. This book breaks it down into sections so you are not overwhelmed with all the concepts that are required to truly understand renal medicine and almost every page has a useful diagram, table or histological/radiological image to enhance your learning. Anatomy, physiology and even the dreaded embryology are covered in the introduction with each subsequent chapter beginning with clinical scenarios that encompass and introduce the pathological theme of the chapter. Want to know how to take a renal history, or know what to look for in the examination? A chapter specifically covering the clinical essentials is included so when you’re asked those random questions like ‘what renal disease is associated with an erythematous maculo-papular rash all over the body?’ you can confidently give the right answer!
This is a book I would definitely recommend to anyone who wants to refresh their knowledge on renal medicine. For the complex topic that renal medicine is, the authors have made this book into a concise companion that is ultimately easy to read and understand for medical students at all levels of their training.
Written by Stephanie Giandzi, University of Notre Dame Sydney