Jeremy Hanson. Photo: Melissa Adams
The ACT Health Directorate has been accused of bullying final-year ANU medical students by trying to deter them from applying to interstate hospitals for graduate internships.
All ANU Medical School graduates are guaranteed a first round offer of an intern place at the Canberra Hospital.
But the Health Directorate has told students they will no longer be given priority in the allocation of internships at the hospital if they simultaneously apply for positions at other Australian hospitals.
The Australian Medical Students' Association has branded the move ''coercive, anti-competitive, and exploitative''.
Medical Students' Association national president Ben Veness said the ACT was the only state or territory where medical students were being formally discouraged from applying to more than one hospital for intern places.
In other states and territories, medical school graduates who received multiple offers were given 48 hours to reject all but one.
''If you are forcing people - if you're bullying them into staying in Canberra and they don't really want to be there - I don't know how good that's going to be,'' Mr Veness said.
''And more to the point, it actually stops other people who might really want to come to Canberra from taking up those positions.''
A Health Directorate spokeswoman said the way intern places were allocated had been changed because of problems with graduates withdrawing at the last minute.
''Unfortunately, over the last couple of years, the experience of the ACT has been one of late withdrawals by interns who have kept their options open by applying across multiple state systems and accepted offers with other states in subsequent rounds even after they had signed a contract with the ACT,'' the spokeswoman said.
''This has left the ACT at the very last minute having to fill places it had thought were filled. This places the health system in a difficult position.''
Mr Veness said that while the Canberra Hospital was to be congratulated for offering more than 90 internships each year, there could be legitimate reasons why ANU graduates would also apply to other institutions.
Interstate hospitals commonly offered graduates two-year contracts but Canberra Hospital was only offering one-year positions, Mr Veness said
Opposition Leader Jeremy Hanson expressed sympathy for the medical students. ''I'm concerned by what is occurring and it does appear to be a form of press-ganging students,'' he said. ''I call on [Chief Minister] Katy Gallagher to explain why this is occurring. If it's simply to make the bureaucracy's life easier, then that isn't good enough.''