Bold bid for a Waikato med school
The Waikato is making a bid for the country’s third medical school in a move that could put more doctors into rural areas that struggle to attract them.
The joint proposal by the University of Waikato and the Waikato District Health Board was put before government ministers on Monday and is a potential major shake-up in the way doctors are taught.
Contrary to the traditional medical training model, the school would take graduates with a degree in any discipline and who are from the communities that need them and put them through four years of training, with a large dose of it on the job in their hometown.
The aim is to steer students towards general practice or another specialty the country is short of, such as psychiatry and geriatrics.
It would be a new way of becoming a doctor, university Vice Chancellor Professor Neil Quigley said.
‘‘It opens the gates wider for entry to a medical education programme.’’
And it’s important for the country as a whole, he said, as New Zealand’s second medical school was set up 50 years ago in Auckland.
‘‘It is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for both the university and the DHB, but most importantly for the people we’re here to serve,’’ Waikato District Health Board chief executive Nigel Murray said.
New Zealand brings in more than 1000 overseas-trained doctors a year, and about 40 percent of GPS are due to retire in the coming decade, according to the business case.
A third medical school is needed to plug that gap, the proposal says, and would focus on doctors for the rural communities which need them most.
The Waikato plan - to cater for 60 students a year for each of the four years - is to choose trainees from those areas who will go back to serve them.
‘‘The key is that these people are embedded in their communities, and we know from international experience that’s a really good thing to ensure that when they’re fully fledged doctors, they actually come back and practise in the communities that helped create them,’’ Murray said.
If successful it will take about seven years for the school to produce its first graduates.