Curtin University is now aiming to open its planned medical school in 2016 as new figures reveal WA has the lowest rate of doctors of all States.
The latest national medical workforce data show Queensland and Tasmania had the lowest rate of working doctors in the country in 2008 but WA ranked the worst in 2012, with 343 doctors per 100,000 people compared with the national rate of 374 per 100,000.
The Australian Institute of Health and Welfare report found the number of employed doctors in WA increased in the four years from 6857 to 7906, while the proportion of doctors aged 55 and over grew from 21.1 per cent to 23.9 per cent.
WA has two medical schools at the University of WA and Notre Dame University. Curtin University wants to open a third one in Midland but is yet to get Federal Government approval so students can access Commonwealth-supported places.
When the plan was floated in 2010, Curtin said it hoped to open the new school by this year.
Acting Vice-Chancellor Colin Stirling said yesterday the university was now aiming to get accreditation in time to take in the first students in January 2016.
"There should be another medical school in WA producing locally-trained doctors and it should be in the eastern suburbs, where, together with regional undersupply, the needs are greatest," Professor Stirling said.
He said WA was about 900 doctors short compared with the rest of Australia, even with its heavy reliance on overseas-trained doctors.
But Australian Medical Association WA president Richard Choong said there was an unprecedented number of medical graduates coming into the health system, after the number of student places increased dramatically in recent years.
"Hospitals are already struggling to accommodate all the interns and WA could end up training doctors who cannot find jobs here," Dr Choong said.