Op­po­si­tion to med­i­cal school

Central Leader - - YOUR PAPER, YOUR PLACE - AARON LEAMAN

Auck­land and Otago med­i­cal school heads be­gan a covert cam­paign against a pro­posed Waikato med­i­cal school three months be­fore it was re­vealed to the pub­lic.

In October, Waikato Univer­sity and the Waikato District Health Board an­nounced a bid to es­tab­lish the coun­try’s third med­i­cal school.

The move trig­gered a sharp re­but­tal from Auck­land and Otago, who slammed the bid as ill­con­ceived and un­war­ranted.

But new doc­u­ments re­leased in re­sponse to an Of­fi­cial In­for­ma­tion Act re­quest by Stuff show the two es­tab­lished med schools be­gan poi­son­ing the ear of govern­ment min­is­ters as early as July.

In a July 26 let­ter, sent to Health Min­is­ter Jonathan Cole­man and then Ter­tiary Ed­u­ca­tion Min­is­ter Steven Joyce, Otago and Auck­land express ma­jor reser­va­tions about the Waikato pro­posal, la­belling it an ‘‘ad hoc ini­tia­tive’’.

The heads of Auck­land and Otago med schools ac­knowl­edge the need for a third med­i­cal school in the fu­ture but say the Waikato pro­posal doesn’t do justice to the com­plex­i­ties sur­round­ing med­i­cal ed­u­ca­tion and train­ing.

In a brief­ing pa­per sent to the min­is­ters in De­cem­ber, Auck­land and Otago stepped up the pres­sure, saying the Waikato pro­posal lacks sup­port from mid-North Is­land DHBs - a claim re­jected by Waikato back­ers.

‘‘An ad hoc pro­posal aimed pri­mar­ily at de­vel­op­ing the rep­u­ta­tion of an in­di­vid­ual univer­sity and region but which lacks the sup­port of most, if not all, key health author­i­ties and or­ga­nis- ations in New Zealand has a high risk of fail­ing,’’ the brief­ing pa­per states.

In re­ply, Waikato DHB chief ex­ec­u­tive Dr Nigel Murray said he had dis­cussed the med school pro­posal with the other four Mid­land health boards. None had spoken against it, he said.

‘‘In our re­gional meet­ings we’ve talked about the chal­lenges we face in mak­ing gen­eral prac- tice vi­able into the fu­ture,’’ Murray said.

In April, the Waikato May­oral Fo­rum unan­i­mously en­dorsed the pro­posal and called on the Govern­ment to sup­port it with ur­gency.

Murray said it was dis­ap­point­ing Auck­land and Otago had tried to por­tray the Waikato pro­posal as a tro­phy project.

A let­ter was sent to Health Min­is­ter Jonathan Cole­man ex­press­ing ma­jor reser­va­tions about the pro­posal.

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