States Must Increase Advanced Surgical Training (AST) Places
By Australian Medical Association
Sep 14, 2005, 01:57

AMA President, Dr Mukesh Haikerwal, said today that the State Government Health Departments must increase the number of Advanced Surgical Training (AST) places they are offering this year and improve access to surgeons downstream - or risk a training bottleneck that will compound the already dire medical workforce shortages hitting Australian communities.

Dr Haikerwal said the States want 259 Basic Surgical Training (BST) places in 2006 but the Royal Australasian College of Surgeons (RACS) has agreed to train 231 because there are not enough available AST places to provide continuity of training for surgical trainees through to full specialist accreditation/certification.

“The training bottleneck will stall their training, put off applicants, and rob communities of the highly-trained specialists they so desperately need now and into the future,” Dr Haikerwal said.

“RACS has done all it can in responding to the specialist shortages but their efforts are being stymied by the inaction of the States in providing the appropriate number of ASTs.

“We understand there are already around 200 candidates for advanced surgical training – including transitional surgical trainees and overseas trained doctors who need additional training – who qualify for an AST post, but cannot get one.

“Many trainees will not be able to complete their surgical training or face significant delays, which means patients are missing out on quality specialist care.

“Given the high cost and arduous nature of basic surgical training, it is unfair and unwise that the trainees are being denied the opportunity to complete their training and enter the workforce.

“RACS has increased basic surgical training numbers significantly – from 164 in 2003 to 231 in 2006 – which is good news, but State Health Departments have derailed the agreed process laid out by the ACCC.

“For the College’s increases to be effective in getting highly trained surgeons out into the community caring for patients, the States must immediately increase advanced surgical training numbers by at least 30 per cent.

“We know there is a need for more highly trained surgeons in our hospitals. We need to recruit these highly skilled surgeons into our health system and finalise their training as specialists.

“It is totally irresponsible to hold back supply at this time. The States must act,” Dr Haikerwal said.

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