A new locally-led medical program, the first of its kind, could be launched as early as 2023, to build a steady pipeline of doctors into regional, rural, and urban areas in the Northern Territory.
Charles Darwin University has joined Menzies School of Health Research (Menzies) in its aspirations to establish the CDU/Menzies Medical Program, as a part of a new Northern Australian Health Workforce Alliance to support the health workforce needs of the Northern Territory and, more broadly, northern Australia.
The opportunity to expand general practice and rural medicine training, consultant medical training and health research will be enhanced through such an Alliance.
The CDU/Menzies Medical Program will deliver an authentic curriculum, with a focus on preparing the medical workforce equipped with the skills, knowledge, and attributes to work specifically in rural and remote areas of Northern Australia, including the Northern Territory.
The program will prepare doctors who are equipped to work in regional and remote areas of the NT as well as in urban environments in Darwin and Palmerston, admit more Indigenous and international students and better connect doctors in the Top End and Central Australia.
The medical program will aim for an initial cohort of 40 students, leading to a minimum of 60 per annum over five years, which will meet the current demand for internships in the NT health system.
CDU Vice-Chancellor Professor Scott Bowman said the time was now to deliver a medical program for the Territory, in the Territory, to respond to the unique health needs of Northern Territory residents.
“It is quite strange and remarkable that the NT which is six times the size of the UK and has unique and pressing medical challenges does not have its own local medical school,” Professor Bowman said.
“The Territory deserves its own local medical program. A local medical school will not only drive health care provision, but will also drive economic growth in the NT.
“This program will relieve the burden on our dedicated medical workforce and create hundreds of opportunities for doctors in the Territory.
“The time is now right to fulfil the intent, voiced many years ago, to establish an authentic, NT focused, medical program led by NT’s institutions and medical experts.”
Menzies Director Professor Alan Cass said recent research from Menzies Professor of Remote and Rural Health Services Research, Dr John Wakerman, demonstrated a large decline in enrolments in GP training in the NT.
“This decline could be turned around with an NT-led medical program, with a curriculum and training focused on health workforce needs of the Territory,” Professor Cass said.
“We need to develop and implement pathways which attract, enable and support young Territorians, Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal, to apply for an independent, NT-focused medical program. These young people, well supported, educated, and trained, will become the doctors needed in our health services and communities.”