SUPPORTERS of the Murray Darling Medical School want 180 student places in other universities transferred to the proposed new school.
On Tuesday, Professor John Dwyer suggested the possible loss of places and associated funding was a factor in the row over the proposed school, a project of Charles Sturt and La Trobe universities aimed at addressing the continuing shortage of doctors in the bush.
The recently-named Foundation Professor of Medicine and Surgery at the planned Murray Darling Medical School spoke up after the row took a dramatic turn.
The University of Sydney placed a full-page letter to federal Member for Calare Andrew Gee in Central West newspapers in response to his claim that it was taking an “unnecessary predatory and negative approach” to training a rural medical workforce. On Tuesday morning the smiling politician tore up the letter in public.
Head of the University of Sydney’s School of Rural Health, Associate Professor Mark Arnold, penned the letter that insisted the “well-intentioned proposal to create yet another medical school will not solve the rural doctor shortage”.
He said it was “widely agreed” that providing students with internships, residency positions and specialist training, including rural generalist training, in rural and regional sites was key to attracting and retaining graduates in rural areas. Dr Arnold said there was no shortage of junior doctors wanting rural careers with more than six applications received for every 2017 internship at public hospitals at Orange and Dubbo.
However, Professor Dwyer said proponents of the proposed new school were in “furious agreement with the fact that we need whole of medical education to be available in the country”. But he said the amount of time students currently spent completing their degrees in metropolitan cities was working against the quest to boost the number of doctors in the bush.
“We lose them to the city,” Professor Dwyer said.
Professor Dwyer said the proposed new school would enrol “bright kids who at interview appear to be genuinely involved in country life and think they want a rural career”. He said the proposed school would offer a “rural specific curriculum” so graduates would be equipped for country practice. Professor Dwyer said currently only 10 per cent of graduates of medical schools in Australia worked in the country.