Health groups say WA risks becoming Australia's "dumbest State" with second-rate medical treatments because of its dwindling share of research funding.
Australian Medical Association WA president Richard Choong said the State Government needed to spend an extra $40 million a year to put WA in a stronger position to attract Federal funding.
"WA is not getting its fair share on a per capita basis and risks dumbing down its doctors and getting the embarrassing reputation as the dumbest State," he said.
Experts say WA is having more of its grant applications knocked back, which is hampering efforts to attract and retain top researchers, including cancer specialists.
WA secured only 5.5 per cent of money from the latest round of grants from the country's biggest funding source, the National Health and Medical Research Council.
Its $35.7 million share of $652 million was less than what five universities in NSW, Victoria and Queensland each received.
A WA Health Department report says WA has slipped behind, with a $47 million shortfall last year compared with the national average.
The South Metropolitan Health Service discussion paper warns that WA's research workforce is ageing and doctors are under so much pressure to treat patients and meet targets, they have little time to do clinical research.
Cancer Council WA director of education and research Terry Slevin said there was a real risk WA could lose its brightest minds in the health area and he had never been more worried about trends in national funding.
"Support for research by other State governments is making it increasingly difficult for WA researchers to compete on an even playing field," he said. "Attracting and retaining cutting-edge specialist cancer doctors is influenced by their capacity to win these important competitive grants.
"Without increased local support we're looking down the barrel of losing our best cancer doctors and researchers and perhaps missing out on the next generation, and that may have serious implications for the quality of cancer research and ultimately cancer treatment services."
Curtin University professor of health policy Mike Daube said WA had relied too much for years on a few high-calibre researchers, institutes and donors.Health Minister Kim Hames said WA deserved a bigger share of NHMRC funding but his department gave $14.1 million to research in 2011-12.
'The West Australian' is a trademark of West Australian Newspapers Limited 2013.
All rights reserved.
Select your state to see news for your area.