Rural doctor plan the best of both worlds

THE University of Sydney says its plan to combat rural doctor shortages uses the best part of the Charles Sturt University bid for a medical school but does not increase the demand on internship places.

Essentially it is the best of both worlds  says Dr Gabriel Shannon, the head of the University of Sydney’s medical school. Dr  Shannon says the Coalition should look at the proposal as an alternative to the rural medical school bid by CSU and La Trobe.

The University of Sydney wants to shift 32 of its 229 Commonwealth-supported students to Dubbo and Orange.

That means more doctors trained rurally but it does not increase the number of graduates vying for limited internship places, unlike the CSU bid that would increase the number of graduates by 120. 

Dr Shannon said there was already a bottleneck when it came to the number of graduates and the availability of internships they need to complete their training.

The University of Sydney runs a medical school in Orange at the Bloomfield campus where students study in Orange for 12 months. 

“We’ll still have students in the medical school for one year, this is an expansion of that program,” Dr Shannon said. 

“Students would be chosen on their commitment to rurality.”

Under the plan, first-year students would have their studies based in Dubbo, while second-year students would study in Orange, where there is more clinical capacity. 

CSU partnered with La Trobe for an initial 120-place medical school in Orange and Bendigo. The two universities argue city-based medical schools are not delivering enough doctors committed to rural practice and that a dedicated rural school with a rural curriculum is a better long-term solution. 

The University of Sydney plan takes the Commonwealth-supported places already in existence and offers them rurally, Dr Shannon said. 

CSU and La Trobe are seeking $46 million in funding for their Murray-Darling medical school. 

Dr Shannon said the University of Sydney would only require funding for extra buildings in Dubbo and funding for up to six professors in Orange and Dubbo.

Charles Sturt University could not be contacted for comment.

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