Waikato medical school can fix our GP problem
OPINION: Over the last few weeks discerning readers will have noticed a brace of stories about the mighty Waikato's bid to create the country's third medical school.
The plan is to provide specialist GP training to address the dire shortage of rural and small town GPs.
This is a great idea but sadly not everyone is a fan.
Those with vested interests - namely Otago and Auckland medical schools - are seeking to derail the bid.
* Prime Minister Bill English steps into Waikato med school debate
* Waikato wants a medical school: university and health board put request to Government
* Proposed Waikato med school faces challenge from Otago and Auckland
* Waikato medical school proposal focuses on diversity
* Auckland and Otago medical schools undermine Waikato bid
Currently Auckland and Otago enjoy a cozy duopoly in GP training and the associated Government funding.
The big boys’ noses are way out of joint about Waikato’s inspired proposal. In fact the two established med schools tried to poison the ears of Government ministers in a covert campaign three months before the proposal was revealed to the public.
If that doesn’t get your blood up, think of it this way.
The two institutions responsible for creating the dire GP shortage in the first place, have done nothing, I repeat nothing, to address the problem since time immemorial. But they did try to torpedo our bid before it was even floated.
The problem with the way medical students are currently trained is that most students opt to specialise in highly lucrative areas of medicine and eschew the role of humble General Practitioner, let alone a rural one.
That's why Waikato's bid - ably led by Waikato University Vice Chancellor Neil Quigley and Waikato DHB chief executive Nigel Murray - is so timely and sorely needed.
The Waikato plan is to allow those with any undergraduate degree to apply for specialised GP training. After graduating they would return to their own communities and take up a stethoscope.
Under the current system the bar is set artificially high.
So if a student gets an A minus in health science, for example, they are turned away. The student's hopes of being a family doctor are dashed and we all lose out in the long run. It’s an almost immoral waste of medical potential. The current training model, that’s the Auckland and Otago one, leaves us short of 1100 doctors every year and that’s not okay.
But because Waikato dared to devise a homespun solution to solve a national crisis, Auckland and Otago cobbled together their own proposal to address the GP issue but only after denying that any such crisis existed.
Go figure. So what this boils down to is a couple of bully boy institutions trying to stymie our bid for something desperately needed.
I say we shouldn't stand for it.
So today the Waikato Times mounts a campaign - Fighting for our Med School - to raise awareness about this wonderful proposal. And we need your help. We want you to write to us at firstname.lastname@example.org supporting the proposal and we will publish your letters as a gauge of public support.
Also you can post messages on Neighbourly and our Waikato Times Facebook page. Please also write to your local MP and tell them what you think.
If you do this then politicians will get the message that Waikato can solve the national GP shortage crisis and cut the purse strings to make Waikato Medical School happen.
*Jonathan MacKenzie is Fairfax Waikato editor in chief.