Partnership would boost rural doctor numbers

CHARLES Sturt University’s (CSU) plan to establish a medical school in Wagga Wagga if it can secure federal government funding could benefit Orange, with the potential to base half the students here.

CSU Orange campus director of corporate affairs Mark Burdack said the university’s case for a rural medical school continued to grow, and governments could no longer ignore rural-based study as a way of boosting the number of doctors in regional areas.

“We now have a real sense that, despite the systems in place, the numbers of doctors returning to regional areas isn’t strong and we need to continue to lobby for more rural places for doctors,” he said.

Mr Burdack conceded some work would have to be done to forge links with Orange Health Service to provide practical training, with the University of Sydney already having an established training link with the hospital.

Orange mayor John Davis has welcomed CSU’s proposal for half the rural doctor training positions to be based in Orange and half in Wagga.

“The CSU proposal to establish a medical school in Orange has drawn much-needed attention to the ongoing shortage of doctors in regional, rural and remote communities,” Cr Davis said.

“Who could have imagined 10 years ago that we would have multiple universities vying to establish medical schools in rural NSW to address doctor shortages.”

Although indications from the University of Sydney are that there will not be sufficient training places at Orange hospital, Mr Burdack is hopeful of brokering meetings with the Western NSW Local Health District.

“We did meet with them last year and had a positive response from them,” he said.

Mr Burdack also believes opportunities for training places in smaller hospitals could provide rural-based students with a more realistic experience of working in a regional area.

“It may mean too that initially we would have fewer than the 60 places in Orange,” he said.

Mr Burdack said, in an election year, all major parties were looking at policy changes that could impact any decision to fund the rural places as part of the Wagga campus.

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