Medical school of thought

October 02, 2017

State Member for Shepparton Suzanna Sheed believes the city’s needs for any further medical schools should be assessed before pushing ahead with another in Shepparton.

State Member for Shepparton Suzanna Sheed believes the city’s needs for any further medical schools should be assessed before pushing ahead with another in Shepparton.

It comes as State Member for Euroa Steph Ryan this week threw her support behind a proposed new regional medical school being based in Shepparton.

Ms Ryan, the shadow training, skills and apprenticeships minister, called on the Shepparton community to lead the charge to help establish a new school.

She also urged the Victorian and federal governments to get behind a joint rural medical school plan, hatched by the La Trobe and Charles Sturt universities.

But Ms Sheed has said a parity of doctors to population already existed in Shepparton and that shortages existed instead in allied health.

Ms Sheed said responding to community needs was important.

Meanwhile, the University of Melbourne has concerns about the impact of the proposed school on rural and regional medical training, a university spokesperson said.

‘‘We believe that establishing another medical school will be detrimental to the existing well-established and effective network for rural medical training in Victoria,’’ a spokesperson said.

The spokesperson said Australia trained a sufficient number of doctors and training in rural settings did not help retention in those areas because students had to return to the city for specialist qualifications.

The spokesperson said challenge remained attracting the medical workforce to live and work in rural areas.

‘‘Another medical school, even if located rurally, will not impact health workforce recruitment across the nation,’’ they said.

Speaking at a La Trobe University function this week, Ms Ryan had said La Trobe and Charles Sturt University had lobbied for years to get approval to offer medicine at three regional medicine campuses — two in NSW and one in Victoria.

‘‘If it is approved by the Federal Government, it would mean up to 60 students a year can undertake their entire undergraduate degree at a campus in regional Victoria,’’ Ms Ryan said.

‘‘This proposed medical school would aim to address the shortage of doctors in regional Australia by training young people who want to live and work in country areas.

‘‘A full undergraduate medical school in Shepparton would put our region on the map as a destination for higher education.’’

The Murray Darling Medical School proposal, supported by La Trobe and Charles Sturt universities, failed to receive funding in this year’s federal budget.

Committee for Greater Shepparton chief Sam Birrell said the merits of the Murray Darling school proposal were debated.

But he said it remained a positive step towards ‘‘getting medical graduates to work in the regions’’ and should it proceed, he agreed Shepparton was well suited.

While he said a need existed for medical graduates in regional areas, he understood it related more to smaller, rural towns.

‘‘If that project should go ahead, Shepparton would be a really good location for a facility,’’ Mr Birrell said.

‘‘Because of our new hospital build, our ability to give students a proper rural medical delivery experience, and our well networked group of young professionals.’’

But he urged that any proposal needed to work in with University of Melbourne’s School of Rural Health.

Greater Shepparton City Council said in a statement the push for a new medical school in Shepparton was one it was interested in learning about and that it would welcome discussions about how it could further complement existing options.

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