Hopes for a regional medical school being established in Orange could lie with next Tuesday’s federal budget.
Member for Calare Andrew Gee and the Minister for Rural Health Senator Bridget McKenzie both said in Orange they were awaiting the budget announcement to see if it brought funding for the proposal.
The Murray Darling Medical School would see doctors trained at Charles Sturt University (CSU) campuses in regional NSW, possibly including Orange, and at a La Trobe University campus in Victoria.
Mr Gee and Senator McKenzie, the deputy leader of the Nationals, were at the Orange campus on Thursday to launch the $100,000 community-university partnership (CUP) program which offered grants to help small community plans.
Senator McKenzie said she was a strong supporter of regional doctor training to help alleviate shortages of doctors in regional areas.
“If you study in the region you are more likely to practise in the region,” she said.
Mr Gee said it might be a case of now or never.
“If we can’t do it now I fear it will never happen,” he said.
“We’re just going to have to wait and see what happens in the budget.
“I’ve certainly got my fingers crossed.”
He said the regional training scheme had a lot of community support but had faced strong opposition from Sydney universities who did not want to lose control of doctor training.
“We’ve seen a lot of vested interests get in the way,” he said.
Mr Gee said the universities had a lobby office in Canberra.
“They would have spent hundreds of thousands of dollars to marshal the forces to get the country medical schools killed,” he said.
Mr Gee said he was also hoping for a “bucket of money” for rural roads.
Acting CSU vice-chancellor Professor Toni Downes said the CUP program involved $20,000 funding for community groups or individuals in each of five categories; arts and culture, education, sport, indigenous programs and small community initiatives.
“Given that winter is just around the corner, we have opened this year’s grant program with the rural and regional sports development round first,” she said.
Potential projects included funds for regional sportspeople to contest national events, money for festivals and support for art shows and early childhood centres.