Waikato med­i­cal school bid cru­cial

Waikato News - - NEWS -

Hamil­ton Deputy Mayor and Waikato District Health board mem­ber Martin Gal­lagher has said that now is the time for a Waikato med­i­cal school.

Last month two Waikato may­ors said a pro­posal for a Waikato Med­i­cal School will be a “game-changer” for smaller Waikato towns and Mr Gal­lagher be­lieves so as well.

“It is an on-going is­sue with a short­ages of GPs and want­ing to re­ally focus on rural health,” Mr Gal­lagher said.

“We are still in the process of mak­ing a bid.”

The pro­posal to build a Hamil­ton-based med­i­cal school has come from the Univer­sity of Waikato and the Waikato District Health Board and would bol­ster the number of GPs work­ing in rural and pro­vin­cial cen­tres. Many Waikato towns are re­liant on short-term, over­seas-trained doc­tors or have GPs head­ing to­wards re­tire­ment age with no re­place­ments in sight.

Mr Gal­lagher said that the re­cent Nigel Mur­ray saga at the DHB has no part to play in the fu­ture of the med­i­cal school.

“I to­tally ac­cept that we have had some se­ri­ous is­sues to deal with as a DHB, but that in no way af­fects our en­thu­si­asm and focus for a med­i­cal school and im­prov­ing rural health.”

O¯ toro­hanga district mayor Max Bax­ter said in terms of re­gional economic devel­op­ment, the med­i­cal school pro­posal was a “to­tal no-brainer”. He wants the gov­ern­ment to get be­hind it for the sake of re­gional New Zealand.

“This gov­ern­ment says they’re all about re­gional economic devel­op­ment so let’s see what they can do,” he said.

“Any­one who lifts their head out of the sand knows how chal­leng­ing it is for smaller towns to get GPs and what the knock-on ef­fects of that are, both so­cially and eco­nom­i­cally. It means we can’t at­tract other health pro­fes­sion­als even though we have high-health needs.”

“The way Otago and Auck­land train doc­tors has left small rural com­mu­ni­ties like mine in the lurch and this is a chance to do some­thing about it.”

South Waikato District mayor Jenny Shat­tock agreed say­ing South Waikato strug­gled to at­tract long-term GPs. She said lo­cal doc­tors were al­ready over-stretched and their books were full.

“To have a med­i­cal school in the Waikato that has rural health needs as its pri­mary focus will be of huge ben­e­fit to the South Waikato and rural com­mu­ni­ties. Good, lo­cal health ser­vices are one of the im­por­tant things peo­ple look for when they are looking to re­lo­cate.”

Both rural may­ors are backed by Hamil­ton mayor An­drew King who said the ini­tia­tive would take the pres­sure off Hamil­ton-based hospi­tal ser­vices which are buck­ling un­der grow­ing re­gional de­mand. He said “with­out ex­cep­tion” all com­mu­nity lead­ers he spoke to sup­ported the med­i­cal school pro­posal.

“Yes, there would be ben­e­fits to the city but I think the great­est ben­e­fit will be in the wider so­cial and economic health of our re­gion.”

In April last year, the Waikato May­oral Fo­rum, which in­cludes all the re­gion’s may­ors and re­gional coun­cil chair, re­solved to unan­i­mously sup­port the pro­posal, ask­ing the gov­ern­ment to ap­prove it “with ur­gency”.

Photo /Alan Gib­son.

A Waikato med­i­cal school train­ing rural GPs would be wel­comed by many if it takes the pres­sure off Hamil­ton-based hospi­tal ser­vices.

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