Tuesday, 05 September 2017 09:55

A very good move

Written by  Pam Tipa
RHAANZ’s Michelle Thompson RHAANZ’s Michelle Thompson

Any initiative that helps train health professionals ready and willing to work in rural communities is good, says Michelle Thompson, chief executive of Rural Health Alliance Aotearoa New Zealand (RHAANZ).

The Government announced last week a plan to establish a school of rural medicine within the next three years to train doctors for rural and regional areas.

Two proposals are now before the Government: one from the University of Waikato and the Waikato DHB, the other a joint proposal by the Otago and Auckland medical schools.

Tertiary Education Skills and Employment Minister Paul Goldsmith says the Government will now run a contestable business case process to consider all options for delivering the new school.

“It is our intention that the successful applicant will be known in 2018, with the new medical school to be up and operating no later than 2020.”

RHAANZ’s Thompson told Rural News the announcement is “definitely a move in the right direction”.

“Both the current proposals on the table have merits,” she says. “But we don’t have a collective view favouring one proposal over the other.”

Goldsmith says the new school would be geared to meet the challenges faced by high-need and rural areas and would train about 60 more doctors per year.

The cost will be finalised by the business case process but, for example, the Waikato proposal is based on Government funding of about $300 million over 10 years.

The Government’s contribution would be met by a combination of existing tertiary funding and future operating and capital budget allowances.

University of Waikato vice-chancellor Professor Neil Quigley says National’s election promise to establish a school of rural medicine acknowledges the extent of the health crisis facing rural and vulnerable NZers.

“It is heartening to see that the conversation we instigated last year when we proposed a new way of educating medical students at [the proposed] Waikato graduate entry medical school has been recognised and acknowledged.”

He says the solution needs to be a fundamental change in the way we select and prepare medical students for community service.

“Internationally, the countries successfully addressing these problems have done it by introducing a new medical education model rather than adjusting existing programmes. We owe it to NZ’s communities to get this right,” says Quigley.

The New Zealand Medical Students’ Association (NZMSA) welcomes the initiatives but is concerned that any further increase in medical graduates requires a corresponding increase of first year post-graduate jobs with the 20 district health boards.

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