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Fees To Increase

Wed, 15 Dec 2004

The New Zealand Medical Association is extremely disappointed that fees for medical students at the University of Otago will increase by 10 percent next year.

Medical students there will now face fees of $11,000 for the year. Otago had sought, and been granted, an exemption from the Government’s fees maxima policy so it could increase fees for medical and some other programmes by 10%, rather than adhere with the Government’s 5% cap on undergraduate fee increases.

"Instead of universities raising fees each year, which will have a huge effect on our future medical workforce, the NZMA has strongly urged the Government to ensure that New Zealand’s undergraduate medicine courses are adequately funded," said NZMA Chairman Dr Tricia Briscoe.

"These courses are vital to the health of New Zealanders, and must be resourced properly. The financial burden should not fall on individual students or the universities. If the fees maxima programme is not working, then the overall level of funding should be examined."

New Zealand doctors are already graduating with huge student debts, which contributes to the ‘brain drain’ of doctors away from New Zealand, and major problems with the medical workforce here.

"Ultimately, the cost of health care to New Zealanders is likely to increase long-term as doctors pay back their huge loans."

Surveys of medical students over the past few years have shown that many plan to leave New Zealand and work overseas, because of their high levels of debt combined with the better financial opportunities in many other countries. Research from 2001 showed that medical students faced average debts of $70,000 and more than 80 percent of them intended to work overseas within two years of graduating. Research has confirmed that New Zealand faces a potential long-term shortage of locally trained doctors.

“It makes no sense economically to continuing adding to the burden of these students,” Dr Briscoe said. “Thousands of dollars of taxpayers' money has already gone into their education. Now we need practical ways of encouraging doctors to stay here and work.”

ENDS

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