Following warnings in mid-January by the Australian Dental Association (ADA) of a pending oversupply of dental graduates and a proposal by the to restrict the number of Australian students enrolling in dental programs, the Vice Chancellor of Charles Sturt University (CSU), Professor Andrew Vann, has spoken out, saying it would hurt rural communities.
The ADA’s warning followed recent figures from the Graduate Careers Council of Australia showing a dramatic drop in the number of dentists in full-time employment—down 10 per cent on previous years. Bite reported on the figures here.
Professor Vann said the ADA’s position was dangerous for rural communities which Australian Institute of Health and Welfare data showed have access to about half the number of dentists per person than people in major cities.
“While the number of dentists in major cities has grown substantially over the last few years, this is not the case in rural and remote areas and city dental graduates continue to shun rural practice,” he said.
“This is the very reason why the Government funded a dental school at CSU.
“Dental student places at regional universities should be expanded, not restricted, so that we can ensure an adequate supply of graduates to rural communities.”
Professor Vann disputed recent claims aired on Prime7 News that one in five dental students graduating this year would face unemployment.
In fact, the most recent report of the Graduate Careers Council of Australia (GCCA) showed that 97.5 per cent of all dental graduates in Australia were in full-time or part-time work within four months of graduation.
“Dental graduates continue to enjoy one of the highest rates of employment of any profession in the country, and have had the highest median starting salary for university graduates for the last five years,” Professor Vann said.
“The idea that one in five graduates will be unemployed is simply wrong.”
Professor Vann warned that the Health and Education ministers must be very careful not to repeat the mistakes of the past in rural health workforce planning.
“In the 1990s city medical professionals argued that there would be an oversupply of doctors in Australia and the government acted to restrict the number of medical graduates, which seriously exacerbated the chronic shortages of doctors in rural and regional areas,” he said.
“Capping dental student places in Australia would have the same devastating effect on rural and regional communities. It is a dangerous proposal that ignores the needs of rural and regional Australians.”
Charles Sturt University has invited ADA president Dr Karin Alexander to tour rural, regional and Indigenous communities as its guest to get a first-hand look at the situation.
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