THE challenge of recruiting doctors to work in rural areas has been made a little easier with the opening of more accommodation for medical students from Sydney.
The students, who attend the University of Sydney’s School of Rural Health in Orange, get year-long exposure to rural medicine and our regional lifestyle while studying here.
Yesterday Assistant Health Minister Fiona Nash opened an extension to student accommodation in Dalton Street which allows eight more students to undertake a placement here.
The accommodation enables those students who enrolled at the University of Sydney from metropolitan backgrounds to get a real taste for life in Orange.
For many the experience of living in a regional centre will be as much a revelation as the rewards of working in rural medicine.
For the University of Sydney the rationale of the program is similar to that of Charles Sturt University (CSU) which wants to dramatically increase the supply of rural GPs and specialists by training doctors in the country.
Both institutions would agree that time spent in a regional community during the training period is the most effective way to encourage graduate doctors to consider careers in rural areas.
Though CSU has had no success in convincing the Abbott government to begin funding its plan for a medical faculty at the university, Sydney University’s expanded presence should improve the prospects of luring more graduates back over the Great Divide.
For a host of financial and professional reasons those in academia and the medical fraternity remain divided over whether a regional university can be more effective in producing doctors wanting a country practice than a metropolitan model which offers a year-long clinical placement in a rural setting.
While that debate continues Sydney University’s School of Rural Health is going some way to redressing the doctor shortage.