Murray Darling Medical School funding not likely during election campaign

A second rural medical school for Bendigo was not a part of Barnaby Joyce's speech to the National Press Club today.
A second rural medical school for Bendigo was not a part of Barnaby Joyce's speech to the National Press Club today.

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LA Trobe University was left disappointed after the Coalition informed the university there would be no funding for an extra medical school in Bendigo.

Vice-chancellor John Dewar was hoping for a $46 million commitment from Nationals leader Barnaby Joyce during his speech at the National Press Club on Wednesday.

The Murray Darling Medical School was intended to have a campuses in Bendigo, Orange and Wagga Wagge as a joint project between La Trobe and Charles Sturt universities.

Mr Dewar said the university was “disappointed” about the decision, after the Coalition promised to deliver the school at the 2013 election.

“The evidence shows a rural medical school will turn around the problem of rural doctor shortages,” he said.

“We will continue to remind the Liberal National Coalition and community of this promise made by (them) and advocate for them to deliver on this commitment.”

Charles Sturt University vice-chancellor Andy Vann was also disappointed at the outcome, believing the National Party had previously been committed to the idea.

“There is wide agreement that current policies have failed, and that a rural medical school is the only proven solution to rural doctor shortages,” he said.

The plan to establish the medical school had encountered opposition from the Australian Medical Students’ Association, who believed it would not address the rural doctors shortage.

They wanted a greater emphasis on vocational medical training in rural areas, because graduates are forced to return to Melbourne to complete specialist training for several years.

Monash University has operated a medical school in Bendigo since 2002, in partnership with the University of Melbourne.

Head of Monash Rural Health Robyn Langham said a second medical school in Bendigo would not increase doctor numbers.

“The solution to rural and regional workforce shortages is certainly not the creation of yet another regional medical school, but rather it is to establish viable, affordable, regional medical postgraduate training programs, which allow regional medical school graduates to complete specialist training in regional locations,” she said.

“The real problem is that students and interns are forced back to capital cities for prolonged (4-7 years) postgraduate training programs because these are limited in rural and regional areas.”

Monash University says 100 students undergo clinical training in the region at any one time, with 20 per cent of graduates practising in rural locations.

The university also believes it “delivers nearly three times the federal government required level of rural-based clinical positions”.