THE coming months will be critical in making a proposed rural medical school at Wagga Wagga and Orange a reality.
Yesterday, Charles Sturt University (CSU) announced it intended to open a second campus to its proposed medical school in Wagga, in addition to its original plans for Orange, subject to federal government funding.
CSU’s ambition is to create a multi-campus medical program between Orange and Wagga similar to its multi-campus programs in pharmacy, physiotherapy and medical imaging, which will help address the chronic shortage of rural doctors.
The only thing standing in its way is the need for $70 million in funding to provide on-campus infrastructure at both locations, with $30 million of that set aside for Wagga.
The announcement was welcomed yesterday by regional community leaders who are urging residents to get behind the plan to put funding on the agenda of the federal government in the lead-up to the September election.
With access to high quality health care services critical for the future development of rural and regional Australia, CSU Vice-Chancellor Andrew Vann said the university's proposal was a realistic one that would not only benefit regional students, but regional communities.
"We'd like people to lobby their local member and federal health minister; what is vital for people now is that these are political decisions," he said.
Also pushing for support was chairman of the Rural Medical School Implementation Committee of Wagga and chairman of the Riverina Medical Specialist Recruitment and Retention Committee Dr Nick Stephenson.
"The Riverina and regional and rural Australia has a major concern with the loss of old-fashioned country doctors who can deliver a baby, look after all family members, set breaks and do basic surgical procedures," he said.
"We have a lot of overseas doctors who are coming in who are not proceduralists like we need in regional areas.
"These doctors are not being replaced; we need to have rural proceduralists and create training pathways so more medical graduates can come here and see the need we have in regional areas.
"Hopefully this, and the mentoring from local specialists, will inspire them to say in rural areas."
Member for Riverina Michael McCormack and former member Kay Hull voiced their support for the funding push.
"It is important we seize this opportunity and get this happening, not just for Wagga, not just for the region, but for regional NSW and Australia," Mr McCormack said.
It is proposed the Wagga campus would utilise the National Life Sciences Hub as well as refurbish existing laboratories for specialist medical training.
Funding will also cover new academic and teaching facility to be constructed at the campus as part of the program.