Medical student debt could cost the health of New Zealanders

"It is really scary and it is really stressful trying to think how am I actually going to fund the rest of this degree," says medical student Kera Sherwood-O'Regan.
"It is really scary and it is really stressful trying to think how am I actually going to fund the rest of this degree," says medical student Kera Sherwood-O'Regan. Photo credit: Getty

Kiwi medical students are sinking deeper and deeper into debt and there are concerns it'll impact the future workforce.

A new University of Auckland study reveals record numbers in the red, with some students racking up debts of up to $150,000.

Kera Sherwood-O'Regan is half way through her medical degree and almost $100-thousand dollars in debt.

"I think I'm sitting around $97,000 last time I checked," she says.

She's 25, living at home with her parents and working part-time but worries she won't be able to afford to finish her studies.

"It is really scary and it is really stressful trying to think how am I actually going to fund the rest of this degree."

By the time they finish their degrees, more than a quarter of medical students reported having debts of over $90-thousand-dollars.  And the concern is it could have an impact on the health system.

It's feared high debt levels may drive graduates overseas, or away from areas of high need in favour of jobs with high wages.

Worse still, Auckland University Medical Students Association president Jibi Kunnethedam says the poorer parts of the country will suffer.

"Doctors go back to the communities they come from and serve them.  If we're not getting a wide range of students into medical school from all these different backgrounds then we're not going to see the result as doctors going back to a wide range of communities and serving all of New Zealand."

Yearly increases in fees, housing and the cost of living are contributing to the rising debt, but the true cost could be the health of New Zealanders.

Newshub.

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