A NEW political stoush has developed over the proposed Murray Darling Medical School after Nationals Euroa MP Stephanie Ryan suggested Shepparton should “take the lead” for the project.
The Murray Darling Medical School is planned to offer 180 new medical school positions for students in Bendigo, Orange and Wagga Wagga.
But in a speech at La Trobe University this week, Ms Ryan argued Shepparton should be considered for a campus as well.
“I believe Shepparton is an ideal site and La Trobe has indicated to me they would be open to developing a campus at Shepparton if the Federal Government supported the plan,” the state MP said.
“A full undergraduate medical school in Shepparton would put our region on the map as a destination for higher education.
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“La Trobe Uni’s course could work complimentary to the University of Melbourne's rural clinical school, which bases some medicine students in Shepparton in the third year of their degree.”
The Nationals have backed the MDMS, but it has failed to receive funding from the federal government.
The medical school will be run in partnership between La Trobe and Charles Sturt universities.
Ms Ryan’s comments drew criticism from Labor’s federal Member for Bendigo Lisa Chesters, who claimed that adding a Shepparton campus would mean the government would have to add more medical places or take them from the existing proposal.
She said it would add another “roadblock” for the proposal to overcome.
“The Shepparton campus would need a significant and expensive rebuild,” Ms Chesters said.
“The federal government must either create new places or take them away from an existing medical school – a proposal that… Melbourne University, Monash and Deakin have said that they will fight against.
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“Creating new medical student places will only exasperate the existing problem we already have, and that’s the lack of postgraduate training places.”
The MDMS has received consistent opposition from the Australian Medical Students Association, which believes it distracts from efforts to add specialist training places in regional areas.
Melbourne and Monash universities already run a clinical school in Bendigo.
Currently, students must return to a capital city to complete their postgraduate training.
Despite Ms Chesters’ concerns, La Trobe University was supportive of Ms Ryan’s comments.
Acting vice chancellor Tony McGrew said the university would be “proud” to bring the MDMS to Shepparton.
“Bringing a high prestige course like medicine to Shepparton underscores our continuing commitment to regionally delivered higher education at a time when other universities are seeking to withdraw from the regions,” he said.