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Funding review the medicine for ailing salaries

23 February 2006

Funding review the medicine for ailing salaries

The announcement that funding arrangements for Medicine and Dentistry degree programmes will be reviewed has been welcomed by the Association of University Staff National President, Professor Nigel Haworth. He said that Medical and Dental academic staff have for too long subsidised Medical and Dental teaching at the Universities of Otago and Auckland through low salaries and poor conditions of employment, and any move to alleviate this would find strong support.

The Minister for Tertiary Education, Dr Michael Cullen, said that the review, to be carried out this year, will ensure that there is sufficient funding available to maximise training opportunities in order that the country continues to produce the highest-quality graduates.

Professor Haworth said that government funding rates for Medicine and Dentistry remain less in actual terms than they were in 1992, and that current funding levels are now perilously close to compromising the quality of the programmes. "It is our view that the overall funding shortfall in Medicine is around $81,699 over the cost of a degree, or $NZ13,616 per student per annum, and in Dentistry by $64,920 over the cost of a degree, or $12,584 per student per annum," he said. "That funding shortfall had been borne by students through high fees and by staff through low salaries."

Professor Haworth said that a significant problem is the disparity between salaries paid to Medical and Dental specialists within the public health system and those in the universities. "Despite an international acceptance that salary rates should be comparable, the current difference in base-salaries is around $20,000 per year," he said. "Under current salary structures, that differential will balloon to $49,000 within eight years unless action is taken. That is completely untenable."

Specialists employed in New Zealand's only Dental School at the University of Otago are paid around half the amount received by their colleagues in private practice.

Professor Haworth said that a major problem faced by the universities is their ability to recruit or to retain specialist staff in an increasing number of clinical specialties.

The review will be carried out by officials from the Tertiary Education Commission and Ministry of Education who are expected to report back to the Minister later this year to ensure any changes can be in place for the next academic year.

ENDS

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