Do we need another med school?

NSW may soon have a new medical school, much to the chagrin of the Australian Medical Students Association (AMSA).

If a bid for a regional centre in the Murray Darling is successful, it would bring the number of medical schools in the state to eight, and in Australia, to 22, including an impending facility at the Sunshine Coast University Hospital.

A recently released economic impact assessment commissioned by Charles Sturt and La Trobe universities has backed the establishment of the Murray Darling Medical School to solve chronic doctor shortages in regional Victoria and NSW.

But AMSA is against the move, arguing it will not solve workforce shortages because “those interested in becoming doctors in rural areas are forced back to the city for most, if not all, of their training”.

AMSA sees increased speciality training places as a more effective alternative to new medical schools.

Jenna Mewburn, AMSA Rural Health Co-Chair and a final year medical student studying in Wagga Wagga points out that she’s a rural background student who wants to live and work rurally in the future, but will likely have to return to the city to pursue specialty training.

“This will likely fall at a time where I’m looking to lay down roots, making it increasingly difficult to return rurally in the future,” she says.

“Initiatives throughout medical school already exist, including rural origin entry quotas and rural clinical school placements.  

“While there is evidence to support the success of these programs in contributing to the rural workforce, what we need is more quality specialty training places to be funded nationwide.”

However, La Trobe University vice-chancellor Professor John Dewar says the report proves the Murray Darling Medical School would solve existing doctor shortages.