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NZMSA seeks assurances over new School of Rural Medicine

PRESS RELEASE: NZMSA seeks assurances over new School of Rural Medicine

The New Zealand Government today announced plans to establish a new School of Rural Medicine within the next three years. Given the current maldistribution of doctors in New Zealand away from rural areas, the New Zealand Medical Students’ Association (NZMSA) welcomes initiatives to address this problem. There is good evidence that if medical students are based in rural areas during their training they are more likely to return to a rural community when they graduate. However, key concerns about the establishment of a new medical school need to be addressed before a new School of Rural Medicine is chosen.

“This is a promising step towards fixing the shortage of rural GPs, but it must be established with careful consideration of the medical workforce pipeline,” said acting NZMSA President, Fraser Jeffery.

Firstly, any further increase in medical graduates requires a corresponding increase in the number of Postgraduate Year 1 (PGY1) jobs available for those graduates across the country’s 20 District Health Boards (DHBs). Without this, some graduates would emerge from medical school without the necessary job to become registered with the New Zealand Medical Council and begin their career. “This is a growing concern for medical students in recent years with the increase in the size of our medical schools,” said Jeffery. NZMSA would need an assurance that there would be available first-year jobs to match the increased number of doctors graduating from New Zealand’s medical schools.

Secondly, NZMSA is concerned that the development of a new medical school may displace students from rural opportunities in existing medical programmes. For example, there are currently 150 University of Auckland medical students based in the Waikato DHB and therefore NZMSA seeks assurance that any new school would not negatively impact on their opportunities.

NZMSA also supports calls from the Royal New Zealand College of General Practitioners to increase the funding of their training programme to produce more GPs. This is currently the biggest barrier to a well-staffed GP workforce with 40% of existing GPs expected to retire in the next 10 years. Without a well-funded GP training scheme, any increase in the number of doctors produced by our medical schools won’t reach the communities that need them.

ENDS

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