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Maldistribution, not numbers the real problem: RANZCO

28/03/2018By Matthew Woodley
RANZCO has defended itself against media reports criticising limits on training places at specialist medical colleges, saying it intends to train as many ophthalmologists as required to meet current and future needs.

A recent report published in The Australian highlighted ophthalmology as one of the medical specialities that did not have sufficient training positions to meet current needs, which it claimed led to longer waiting times and higher out-of-pocket expenses for patients. It also stated graduates were at risk of being locked out of specialist medical colleges, such as RANZCO, as a result of the restrictions.

Mark Daniell
“We need to ensure that we make proper use of the ophthalmologists who are available, and that means ensuring that public hospitals are adequately resourced, with theatre time made available for ophthalmologists to provide surgery for those people waiting.”
Associate Professor Mark Daniell, RANZCO president

According to the report, official modelling predicts a serious shortage in ophthalmology by 2030, despite an interim report from the National Medical Training Advisory Network that showed the number of domestic medical school graduates had increased by 21.9% between 2011 and 2015.

According to the media report, this was because there was almost no change in the number of places available for basic ophthalmology training between 2012 and 2016, while the number of RANZCO Fellows had declined 13.8% between 2011 and 2015.

The article stated this was because there was almost no change in the number of places available for basic ophthalmology training between 2012 and 2016, while the number of RANZCO Fellows had declined 13.8% between 2011 and 2015.

It went on to explain this is because the official measure of whether specialties have a shortage or pending shortage is heavily based on legacy numbers and current work practices, rather than predicted patient demand.

“There are ophthalmologists in public hospitals ready and willing to operate. Every week at Westmead Hospital, one ophthalmologist is told they cannot operate for a lack of funding and is asked to take annual leave instead,” an unnamed Sydney-based eye surgeon quoted in RANZCO’s response said.

RANZCO president Associate Professor Mark Daniell went on to explain that this was one of the reasons there needed to be a concerted effort to address workforce maldistribution in Australia.

“This is why we have a focus on training ophthalmologists who will work in regional and remote areas, and on developing systems to facilitate that. We need government to facilitate additional training places in these regional areas to help meet demand,” Daniell said.

“In addition, we need to ensure that we make proper use of the ophthalmologists who are available, and that means ensuring that public hospitals are adequately resourced, with theatre time made available for ophthalmologists to provide surgery for those people waiting.”

RANZCO says it has developed a regional training model to address current maldistribution issues, but that it requires additional state and federal government funding in order to increase additional specialist training posts in remote areas.



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