With concerns being raised about the capacity of state and territory governments to guarantee training opportunities for all this year's medical graduates, Catholic health services that provide 10 per cent of the country's hospital beds may fill the breach.
The Australian Health Ministers' Advisory Council (AHMAC) today acknowledged with the largest graduating class on record, with more than 3,500 anticipated graduates, there will likely be a shortfall in internship places available in government-run public hospitals.
Australia's 75 Catholic hospitals – 21 public and 54 private – could provide a medical training solution, Catholic Health Australia's CEO Martin Laverty said today.
"The 2013 medical internship shortfall was a problem many have seen coming for some years," he said. "When you increase the number of university places, you also need to increase the number of hospital training places. Governments should have acted earlier."
Mr Laverty said many Catholic hospitals and aged care services have played differing roles in nursing and medical training for decades, and that they might be able to play a greater role in the training of medical graduates in the future.
"We recognise the potential for Catholic private hospitals to do more to train the doctors and nurses of tomorrow. We've been outlining this capacity to governments for years, on the back of the current medical internship programs operating in many Catholic public hospitals" he said.
For Catholic not-for-profit hospitals to be able to provide more medical internships, Mr Laverty said there were several threshold issues that would first need to be addressed.
"In genuine partnerships with governments, we would need to first identify how many internship places need to be provided and where. It's not obvious just how small or large the 2013 internship shortage will be.
"Those Catholic hospitals where it was possible to take on internships that may not already be internship providers would need to be accredited. The current accreditation process is cumbersome; Government would need to slash red tape and expedite the procedure.
"There also needs to be a commitment of funding and resources from governments to ensure participating Catholic hospitals were adequately resourced to provide medical internships.
"Importantly, governments would need to make long-term commitments extending beyond 2013. Utilising non-government hospitals for training cannot be ad hoc and short term. The program must be well planned and sustainable over the long run.
"Catholic private hospitals are uniquely positioned to help address the shortage in training places because of existing medical internships across many Catholic public hospitals," Mr Laverty concluded.