Waikato University planning new medical school

  • 15/07/2017
Waikato University.
Waikato University. Photo credit: Dan Satherley/Newshub.

Auckland University is rejecting a claim by Prime Minister Bill English that proposals by Auckland and Otago universities to address the shortage of rural GPs "appeared really only because of the Waikato [University] proposal".

New Zealand has medical schools in Auckland and Otago, and a third has been mooted in Waikato.

That proposal emerged after it was revealed a Tokoroa doctor was struggling to fill a job that offers a young GP the potential to earn $400,000-plus a year.

In February Sir Owen Glenn, a 76-year-old philanthropist, said he's pledging $5 million towards the creation of a medical school in Waikato. He said a new model of medical education was desperately needed in New Zealand.

Waikato will take graduates with a degree in any discipline, who are from the communities that need them, and put them through four years of training.

Currently, only 15 percent of New Zealand medical graduates choose to become GPs.

Waikato University and the Waikato District Health Board submitted the med school's business case to the Government on May 31.

Mr English's remarks were reported on a visit to Hamilton on Tuesday.

On Friday Auckland University vice-chancellor, Professor Stuart McCutcheon, said both existing medical schools had been active in addressing a shortage of rural GPs for many years.

"The University of Auckland has trained doctors and nurses in regional and rurally based programmes for decades.

"We have established specialist hubs for rural training in Northland and the Bay of Plenty, and will open another one next year in Taranaki," said Prof McCutcheon.

Otago University also operated several centres for rural training.

Prof McCutcheon said discussions about how to further increase the supply of general practitioners to rural and regional areas had been going on since 2015.

"There is no doubt that the most effective way to address this issue is by building on the capability that already exists in New Zealand's two world-class medical schools," Prof McCutcheon said.

"What we don't want to see is the government wasting hundreds of millions of public dollars by creating another medical school when the issue is not a shortage of medical graduates but rather where they end up practising."

Prof McCutcheon also disputed the Prime Minister's claim that each year New Zealand imports 1100 doctors to fill the gaps in its health workforce.

"We have, with the support of Government, increased the number of medical graduates from 400 to nearly 600 a year.

"Three quarters of these overseas doctors stay less than two years in New Zealand because they are here primarily on work experience and the overall dependency on overseas-trained doctors in this country is falling as our domestic numbers rise."

Also on Friday the New Zealand Rural General Practice Network said a wide-ranging review of New Zealand's Primary Response in Medical Emergency service had been successfully completed and work will soon begin to implement its recommendations.