Federal Health Minister Tanya Plibersek has cast doubt on a bid for a new medical school in WA, telling doctors there are no plans to increase the number of medical places in Australia.
In a letter to the Australian Medical Association's Federal president, Steve Hambleton, Ms Plibersek dashed a push by several universities, including Curtin, to run new medical courses.
She said new medical schools or extra places in existing courses were "difficult to support at this time" because there was pressure to provide training opportunities for existing medical students.
"It is essential that all governments continue to address their commitment to existing medical trainees, clinical supervisors and patients to increase capacity and maintain high-quality training for the existing group of future medical practitioners prior to making any decisions to increase the intake of medical students," she wrote.
It comes three months after Premier Colin Barnett threw his support behind Curtin University's application, arguing Australia was "plundering" disadvantaged countries of their doctors.
Curtin's plan to open a medical school in 2014 now seems unlikely.
But Dr Neale Fong, who is driving the project, said it would push ahead with its plan even if that meant a later start date.
"The Government is non-committal at the moment and we accept that but our curriculum is well advanced and our submission to the Australian Medical Council is ready to go, and the plans for our medical school building are approved," he said.
"Our opponents would like to say the door is shut but we don't see it that way and you only need to look at the flu epidemic and the fact that people can't get in to see a GP."
AMA WA president Richard Choong said his concern was how the system would cope with even more medical students. "Already the system is struggling to deal with interns and offer career pathways, and we don't have enough assurances from governments they will meet the training demands for the existing students," he said.