Prime Minister Kevin Rudd has announced the Government will spend $632 million to train more than 5,000 new doctors.
Unveiling the plan at Queanbeyan Hospital near Canberra today, Mr Rudd said the money would be spent over 10 years to train 5,500 GPs and 680 specialists.
The new funds will also pay for 5,400 junior doctors to take part in general practice placements before gaining their final qualifications.
The Government says the money will fund training for a “record” number of doctors and will be funded from within the budget.
The funding includes $145 million for specialist training where shortages are identified in areas such as general surgery, pathology, radiology, obstetrics and gynaecology.
Almost $340 million will be spent to fund the 5,500 GP training positions and $148 million will be used to allow junior doctors to take a placement in general practice before they become fully qualified.
“To maintain current levels of GP and primary care services alone it is estimated that an additional 3,000 GPs will be needed by 2020,” Mr Rudd said.
“We believe the time for action has come.”
Health Minister Nicola Roxon says the medical community realises the need for more doctors and specialists to treat people out of hospital.
“Some services are not being provided in the community because of a poor distribution of specialists and a poor distribution of GPs,” she said.
“We can pull our weight, that’s what this announcement is doing, and we certainly will be expecting the colleges to pull their weight.”
The announcement comes as Mr Rudd continues to negotiate with the states to secure agreement on his plan to take over hospital funding.
Mr Rudd has met with the premiers of New South Wales, Victoria and Queensland and says he will be travelling the country to seal the deal ahead of a Council of Australian Governments (COAG) meeting on April 11.
The Government has proposed to take back 30 per cent of GST funding from the states in order to directly fund a 60 per cent of hospitals.
The Commonwealth will also take full control of primary health care.
But there has been resistance from some states, who say they will not sign up to the plan until he releases the full details of his health and hospitals funding overhaul.
Opposition Leader Tony Abbott has criticised the announcement, saying Mr Rudd is big on new plans that are never implemented.
“This is a Government which is very good at announcements but very bad at program delivery,” he said.
“But to get the training places you’ve got to have arrangements in place with the state governments, with the universities, with the public hospitals.”