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University of Auckland rejects PM’s claim

University of Auckland rejects PM’s claim

The Vice-Chancellor of the University of Auckland has rejected a claim by Prime Minister Bill English that proposals by Auckland and Otago Universities to address the shortage of general practitioners and other health professionals in rural and regional areas “appeared really only because of the Waikato (University) proposal”.

Professor Stuart McCutcheon said that the Prime Minister’s comments failed to acknowledge that both existing medical schools had been active in this area for many years.

“The University of Auckland has trained doctors and nurses in regional and rurally based programmes for decades. We have established specialist hubs for rural training in Northland and the Bay of Plenty, and will open another one next year in Taranaki,” said Professor McCutcheon. Otago University also operated several centres for rural training.

Professor McCutcheon said that discussions about how to further increase the supply of general practitioners to rural and regional areas had been going on since 2015. “There is no doubt that the most effective way to address this issue is by building on the capability that already exists in New Zealand’s two world-class medical schools,” Professor McCutcheon said.

“What we don’t want to see is the government wasting hundreds of millions of public dollars by creating another medical school when the issue is not a shortage of medical graduates but rather where they end up practising.”

Professor McCutcheon also disputed the Prime Minister’s claim that each year, New Zealand imports 1100 doctors to fill the gaps in its health workforce.

“We have, with the support of government, increased the number of medical graduates from 400 to nearly 600 a year. The continued importation of doctors from overseas reflects in part the lag between the increased intake into the existing medical programmes and the increased availability of qualified doctors, and in part the shortage of doctors willing to serve in the rural and regional areas.

“Three quarters of these overseas doctors stay less than two years in New Zealand because they are here primarily on work experience and the overall dependency on overseas-trained doctors in this country is falling as our domestic numbers rise.”

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