Health experts in Australia have warned that the chronic shortage of general practitioners in Australia could lead to a health care crisis if appropriate steps are not taken to improve the situation, at the earliest.
Increase in the number of university medical places is the only sure shot way for long term management of the current trend. Immediate establishment of medical workforce can for sure ensure flooding of the medical market. This however would only be a short-term measure. The researchers have therefore highlighted the need for strategies that would result in a sustainable, steady increase in the medical workforce.
Researchers from Monash University applied simulation-modeling techniques over latest trends in the medicine industry to analyze the size of the same by the year 2012. A chronic shortage in the GP workforce has been predicted by the system. The total medical workforce would however increase by a margin of 14, 275 by 2012.
Furthermore, by 2012, the specialist workforce is believed to increase by 44 full-time equivalent (FTE) practitioners per 100,000 citizens, on a per capita basis while the number of GPs would remain the same as in 2003 (four FTE per 100,000 people). The attenuation in the number of GPs could be due to migration of the doctors from general practice to specialized sectors.
'The results suggest an entrenched, long-term shortage of the workforce. A 25 per cent increase in training intakes would only return the GP workforce to its 2001 level by 2012. The previous boom in medical workforce supply, in the 1970s, was followed by a 'bust', which saw strict limits placed on medical student numbers and GP training program intakes. A smoother progression of workforce supply is needed to reduce the likelihood of extreme shortages or surpluses, and assist more effective delivery of medical care,' remarked Dr. Joyce, who led the study.
In an attempt to change the present trend, five new medical schools have been opened, which is anticipated to increase the medical graduates by a margin of 60%. Additionally, the visa regulations have also been relaxed, to encourage international students to study and work in Australia.
Provision of encouragement to doctors to remain the workforce for a longer duration, encouraging specialist doctors to also concentrate on primary care, amendments in policy related to service delivery and structures and remuneration for doctors are possible solutions that would help in the effective management of this looming workforce shortage, suggested the researchers.