Our say | Medical school puts new pollie to the test

BUILD it, and they will come.

Even better, many will stay.

That remains the philosophy behind the Murray Darling Medical School’s ongoing push to establish a regional medical school but the message continues to fall on deaf ears at the top levels of government.

Murray Darling Medical School is a joint initiative of Charles Sturt University and La Trobe University to address doctor and skills shortages in the bush by supplying a ready-made workforce.

Repeated studies show that students who learn in regional centres are more likely to work in regional centres and the latest figures from a Medical Deans of Australia and New Zealand report illustrates that truth.

The report found that fewer than one-in-five final year medical students intends to practise in the bush after graduating.

But the situation is even worse than that.

Past experience shows that even among that small minority that indicated an intention to work in the bush, very many will never do so.

In fact, according to Murray Darling Medical School executive director Mark Burdack, less than 10 per cent of medical graduates will work outside of the major centres.

That’s clearly not sustainable for growing cities such as Bathurst and the situation is even worse in smaller towns across the state which can go years without a doctor.

And that’s why it’s so frustrating for supporters of the Murray Darling school that their submissions for federal support are so regularly knocked back.

The solution is clear but there appears to be a lack of political will to make it happen. Until now, at least.

The new hope for a regional medical school is the arrival in Canberra of new Calare MP Andrew Gee.

Mr Gee might be a newcomer to federal circles but he has made all the right noises since his election in July.

His first commitment to the electorate was to fight for a medical school and while that promise has come to nothing so far, it’s encouraging that he would so publicly stake his reputation on the proposal.

Mr Gee’s predecessor, John Cobb, also supported the medical school but he carried little weight in the halls of power. By contrast, Mr Gee prides himself as a shrewd political operative who “gets things done”.

This is easily his biggest political challenge so far but, if he pulls it off, it could be his political crowning glory.