The Committee of Presidents of Medical Colleges has a strong commitment to assisting in closing the gap in health status between the Indigenous and non-Indigenous people of Australia. In 2010 CPMC commissioned a framework study entitled “National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Medical Specialist Framework for Action and Report’. This framework study was carried out by Dr Shaun Ewen, Onemda VicHealth Koori Health Unit, Centre for Health and Society, Melbourne School of Population Health, the University of Melbourne.
The study identified that improving health outcomes of Indigenous Australians requires comprehensive strategies. One factor is a need to increase the overall number of Indigenous doctors and Indigenous medical specialists in particular and the CPMC Project aims to improve pathways towards participation and completion of specialist training. Provision and implementation of a range of programs to increase the cultural competency of all medical specialists in relation to the health care needs of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people is also important.
The framework study, quoting the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (AIHW), 2009, stated that in 2006, the Indigenous doctors made up only approximately 0.20 per cent of the medical workforce. In the same year, based on the 2006 census figures, the proportion of non- Indigenous doctors in the non-Indigenous total population was 0.28 per cent while the proportion of Indigenous doctors in the total Indigenous population was just 0.02 per cent.
Bearing in mind the very low number of the Indigenous medical workforce, especially in relation to medical specialists, the framework study made 19 recommendations, which, if implemented, would be likely to increase the number of Indigenous medical specialists. The main framework recommendations were to identify the Indigenous status of trainees and fellows; to provide information regarding access to various specialist training programs; to provide cross-cultural training in Indigenous issues; to provide cultural competence training in Indigenous health to specialist college staff, trainees and fellows; to develop learning modules and cultural competence curricula and to develop a cyclical quality review tool.
In June 2011, with further support from the Department of Health and Ageing, the CPMC contracted with the Royal Australasian College of Surgeons (RACS) to facilitate delivery of the project activities, including housing and support to the project officer through a second phase of the CPMC National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Medical Specialist Framework Project.
In December 2013 the NATSIM project was completed.
CPMC remains committed to the Vision to increase the number of Indigenous medical specialists and will continue to pursue the recommendations arising from the NATSIM project as part of the activities of the Indigenous health subcommittee.
The final report of the NATSIM Project can be found here