THE appointment of the Nationals’ Fiona Nash as assistant health minister could shore up support for Charles Sturt University’s (CSU) medical school bid but Liberal minister Peter Dutton still has to be convinced.
Mr Dutton, the incoming health minister, has so far been noncommittal on the idea, but his Coalition partners endorsed the CSU/La Trobe Murray Darling Medical School project in their election policy.
Murray Darling medical school executive director Kim Webber said the Nationals putting in writing their support for medical school campuses in Wagga Wagga, Bendigo and Orange before the federal election was the best sign the universities have had so far.
“It’s in writing which takes it to another level,” she said.
In June La Trobe and CSU teamed up to build the $46 million project subject to federal government grants.
The joint initiative reduced CSU’s initial medical school bid cost by $24 million with $8.3 million to be spent on the Orange campus.
“It’s interesting and if we look at rural health more broadly, it is the first time we have had a National in a health position for a very long time,” Dr Webber said.
“We don’t know where she’ll be put, she might be put in mental health or aged care.”
Senator Nash’s appointment comes during debate over the merits of another medical school to address doctor shortages.
Opponents argue that, given the rising number of graduates from the 18 medical schools, the real problem is a lack of rural training places for them.
But advocates say too many new doctors return to the cities after training in rural areas, and that regional medical schools would have a dedicated rural culture.