The recent announcement by the Labor Government, led by Prime Minister Anthony Albanese and Health Minister Mark Butler, to exclude James Cook University (JCU) Cairns from receiving any Commonwealth Supported Places (CSPs) for medicine students is a slap in the face to Far North Queensland. This decision blatantly ignores the chronic doctor shortage in our region and undermines the efforts of the former Coalition government in securing funding for the Cairns University Hospital.
The Labor Government has failed to see the critical role these places play in the success of our university hospital. It’s disheartening to see the government turn a blind eye to a region that has the best performance in Australia for retaining regionally trained doctors. This decision is not just disappointing; it’s disastrous for our community’s health needs and for the future of medical services in Cairns.
Senator Nita Green’s inaction and failure to advocate for our community in this matter is unacceptable. She can hardly claim to be the most influential person in Cairns if she is ineffectual in her ability to stand up to the Prime Minister and Health Minister and demand a review or reversal of this decision. The Labor Government should hang their heads in shame for abandoning a region in dire need of medical professionals and one that is best equipped to deliver more of them.
The travesty that is the Health Minister’s announcement is made further egregious when we look at the population centres that did receive the CSPs:
|ABS Population 2021/22
|New CSPs Announced
|Ararat and Warrnambool
|Regional South Australia
I extend my thanks to Clive Skarott, Chairman of the Cairns and Hinterland Hospital and Health Service board, for his vocal opposition to this terrible decision. His recent comments highlight the devastating impact of this decision on our ambition to elevate Cairns Hospital to a tertiary-grade facility.
I urge JCU Vice Chancellor Simon Biggs to escalate his response from disappointment to action. We cannot accept this outcome passively. I trust JCU will be advocating tirelessly to ensure that Cairns is at the forefront for the next allocation of CSPs—I certainly will be.
It is time the Labor Government and our local Senator Nita Green stepped up and recognised the need in our community as well as the opportunity we have to train and educate our way towards the solution. The people of Far North Queensland deserve a government that recognises and supports their essential services, not one that leaves them out in the cold.