Tertiary Education, Skills and Employment Minister Paul Goldsmith says the new school will be specifically geared toward meeting the challenges faced by high need and rural areas of the country, and will produce around 60 additional doctors per year.
The initial proposal for the new School of Rural Medicine was put forward by the University of Waikato and the Waikato District Health Board. Otago and Auckland Medical Schools presented a joint proposal. The Government will now run a contestable business case process to consider all options for delivering the new school, including the cost. Waikato’s proposal is seeking Government funding of around $300 million over ten years. The successful applicant will be known in 2018 with the new medical school will be operating in 2020.
The proposed new medical school has met some opposition. Professor Max Abbott, Dean of the Faculty of Health and Environmental Sciences at Auckland University of Technology (AUT) says a third medical school at Waikato University would be a “shag on a rock” and will not address urgent, longer-term rural health needs.
“We don’t just need more doctors in rural practice. Nurses and many other health professions play critical roles, and there is huge potential to extend scopes of practice and work more collaboratively in interdisciplinary teams. We don’t need more of the same, we need to do things differently and better.”
Abbott says it is critical to increase rural recruitment and retention of a wide range of health professionals, not just doctors. He emphasises that while universities have an important part to play in this, factors outside education are also important.